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The Dancer of Shamahka
The Dancer of Shamahka
by Armen Ohanian
I danced in the fire —
Behold me, the Flame!
I danced in abysses —
Behold me, the Wind !
Eleven Gower Street, London
First published 1922
All rights reserved
Printed in Great Britain by Butler & Tanner, Frome and London
Letter to Armen Ohanian from Anatole France
Dear Mademoiselle, —
I thank you very much for having allowed me to
read these pages from your memories.
You have put into these descriptions and tales the
same charm that exhales from your eyes and your
gestures. I do not know what subtle art is hidden
beneath your perfect simplicity, but you have known
how to paint with a word the dawns and the sunsets
of the Caucasus, and to reveal a thousand secrets of
Nature and of life.
It is delicious to see you as a little child with your
sisters, Anahide, the mathematican ; Heguine, who
knows in history only the adventures of the djinns,
the peris, the houris, and the little Katarine, destined
to die without having sinned. You enrapture us,
dear Armen, with your revelations of your " minds
like those of little wild animals."
And what a miracle of naivete, your disputes with
old Nani as to the superiority of Christian faith over
the religion of Mohammed !
You lead us into scenes which can never be for-
gotten : the drowsy school of Toutousc, the services
of Holy Week, the festival of Easter, when one cats
kebab of mutton, the meeting with the handsome
peasant, and that solemn night of watching when, as
you have said, it seemed that the moon was broken to
fill the assembly with its light. How much that
contains of poetry and of truth ! How beautiful
it is !
Do not refuse, dear mademoiselle, the felicitations
and the thanks of your old friend,
Zergueran ......... 9
Dawns of the Caucasus— The 6even souls of a cat — The visit of
the dandansaze — The Evil Eye and little Katarine — The sacred
month of Mouharcm — Easter in Armenia — Mingula dances on the
tombs of the saints — Evening — Night at the miraculous springs —
The bride of the sculptor of amber — The dance of the Mongolian
dervishes — An evening with the priest Ter-Barsegh — The tale
of the fakir and his Onyx — The death of Katarine — Ter-Barsegh
describes the creation of man.
Shamahka ......... 5 1
The love of King Dandouk for the Queen of Shamahka — Ker-
Galassi, Mountain of the Virgin — Mary of Magdala — Alikh speaks
of love and Zoroaster — My father's library— Sunday teaches the
meaning of eternity — The wrath of the mountains destroys
Baku .......... 68
The shores of the Caspian Sea— We enter Baku — The nightmare
of Russian schools — Prince Galitzine, the Archangel — The
masseur's bombs — Rahim, the Tartar lover — The Cossack terror
— Massacre — Rahim risks his life — The disguised Armenians — I
watch in the night — New massacre — The Cossacks charge — The
Tsar gives his people a constitution.
My unknown liusband -A bridal journey to Resht — The house of
Assatour-Khan I study the duties of an Armenian wife — The
Evil Spirits seize me- -The civilized uncle takes me to the bazaars
— The dervish reads the stars -The nuptial bath • 1 meet my
The little palace of the vizir — My husband goes to save the world
— Death — General Sasso-Tates is generous — The little eunuch
describes Europe — The love of Queen-of-the-Crowns — The house
of Envar-ed-Doule — Persian nights — Prince Sword-of-the-
Empire calls — The strange birth of Prince Sword-of-the-Empire —
The wise man Seied-ed-Dine consults the omen — The omens do
not deceive — The Queen makes me beautiful — The love of
Bahman — The real life of Persian women — Djende and the saintly
fakir- — The marriage of little Suhun, the leper — The merchant of
brocades — The French Princess and the Palace of Forty Mirrors — ■
The Shah gives audience in the palace of Dar-Bar — A summer's
night with the courtesans of Teheran— Shah-Abdul-Azim cele-
brates Mouharem — A Christian in the mosque — The Queen
amuses herself — A comet comes out of the west — Prince M . . .
es-Saltaneh sings his last song — The little Shah is unhappy — The
daughter of a djinn — I dance for the Shah — Scandal in Persia —
The story of Mougdoussi-Khanoum — I go on pilgrimage.
Across the Caucasus . ...... 205
A night in the desert — Rahim's last gift— Knarik dies for love —
The career of Eyes of Fire- — The strange history of Georgia — The
Dance of the Swords for the Viceroy- — The merchant of swords
gives a banquet — The jeweller's dream — Schiller in Akoulis — A
train to the Black Sea.
Constantinople and Greece ...... 222
I speak of the rope in the house of the hangman— Nasle Khanoum
outwits me — Annette knocks at my door — A night of the Bos-
phorus — Greece.
Egypt .......... 237
The catacombs — How Semiramis loved the King of Armenia —
The bestiality of civilization — I see the Sphinx by moonlight — The
heart of Pharaoh — Our dream of the civilized countries — The
6acred dance of maternity — I dance for the two Khedivas — A
civilized Armenian patriarch— The wager between Pasha and
Bey — My Neopolitan count — The Englishmen tell me of music-
halls— Farewell to Asia.
Armenia : Zergueran
AH yes, I remember my childhood, fresh and rosy
as the dawns of the Caucasus, from which the
people of my country must have stolen the blinding
colours for their scarves and sashes. I remember the
peaks of blue and white slowly unveiling themselves
from the heavy clouds. I remember the yellow deserts
emerging and stretching far, barren and sad, quivering
at the foot of savage cliffs like pride subdued by barbar-
ous masters. I remember the small Tartar villages
clinging like eagles' nests to the brink of abysses, the red
citadels, the Byzantine domes of churches, the slender
elegant minarets. I remember the chants of the
muezzins saluting the rising sun and mingling with the
grave ringing of Christian bells to glorify the same God
at the same hour. My ears still hear the songs of birds
and the metallic tinkling of ornaments worn by the
Armenian women. Veiled in red and carrying vases on
their shoulders they come and go from the distant
spring, hastening to offer their husbands, with the smile
of morning, the freshness of water in a copper jar.
" The world awakens," said our old Tartar nurse,
rubbing together her wrinkled hands.
Ah yes, indeed, old Nani, we saw the whole world
awakening before our eyes. But to-day I do not know
even the awakening of my nearest neighbours, shut like
me in these immense prisons of brick blackened by
smoke, and I sec neither the sky of morning nor the sky
The earth awoke. And beneath the cascade which
fell from the cliffs to water our gardens, I was mingling
my happy shouts with the cries of my sisters, plunging
in the white foam. My mother, smiling to see us so
joyous, gently coaxed us into the house.
But soon, clad in light garments, red, yellow and
blue, with Turkish slippers on our feet and white
turbans on our heads, we were climbing like monkeys
up the fruit trees. The servants begged us in vain to
descend for the morning tea ; we were happy, and
sitting on the branches we bit into the juicy pears.
Then came the beautiful silhouette of my mother in
her Georgian veils, with all her bracelets accompanying
so prettily her grieved gestures. Her beautiful eyes
looked up at us, pure and limpid as the diamonds that
sparkled in her little crown.
" You little monkeys ! " she cried. " Cholera is
mowing down millions of people in the neighbouring
cities, whole villages have been buried ! Come down
quickly from those trees, it is death that you eat in their
fruit ! "
She clasped us in her arms, her veils fell like mist
around our heads, and her lips were soft and perfumed
as she kissed us good morning.
The sunlight fell across a large carpet spread on the
lawn. Kneeling on it, at the edge of a Persian cloth
handpainted and ornamented with Arabic writing, we
awaited the solemn approach of our father. Our
shoulders were chastely hidden beneath shawls from
Kashmir, our feet modestly covered by shoes. Jests in
a low voice, stifled laughter, the reproachful eyes of our
mother trying to overcome by exaggerated severity her
desire to laugh at our frolic. Finally the grave appear-
ance of our father. The servants, bowing low, their
veils dropped over their faces, respectfully turned their
backs upon him. We all rose, with timid gestures.
A short prayer, and my father took his large cup
which awed by its important air our little cups suited to
mere small girls. He drank slowly, in silence. A few
seconds passed, insupportably long. At last they
ended, my father departed. What joyous excitement !
The shawls were thrown aside, the shoes kicked off, the
servants came to life again. Pushing our mother away
from the samovar, each of us struggled to be first to
pour herself a cup of tea, in spite of the energetic
protests of our mother and the servants who expected
to see us scalded by the boiling water. Plates were
broken under our feet, eggs rolled from one side of the
cloth to the other, the honey was spilled. My mother,
really vexed at last, rose and threatened to call our
father. The very word subdued us.
Suddenly the voice of my father was heard calling
from the terrace to my mother. " Khanoum, where
are your little savages ? Have them take their books
and papers and go to Toutouse to prepare their lessons."
Heavens, what desolation !
Half an hour later we were obliged to go, all four.
The piles of books on our heads impressed our servants
by their number. The servants followed us with
great respect ; however, they sincerely pitied us.
We began to climb Toutouse, the little mountain
near the entrance to our large fruit gardens. The
climb was difficult ; the stones, already heated by the
sun, burned through our thin slippers. The servants
came in a line behind us, bearing on their heads and
shoulders a quantity of little rugs, cushions, mattresses
and shawls, while old Nani, guardian of our seraglio,
followed at a little distance, knitting. She felt even
more than we the misery of our hard fate. When we
paused to rest she overtook us, lamenting : " Your
mother is a true Khanoum, knowing neither how to
write nor how to read. What an idea, to make you
languish, bent under books and weighed down upon
your stomachs just after breakfast ! " She detested our
books, and we loved her because of that.
The carpets were unrolled beneath the walnut trees,
and we sprawled upon the mattresses while the servants
arranged cushions to support us more comfortably. A
painted earthern pitcher filled with fresh water was
placed beside each of us by my father's order ; thus we
had no excuse for leaving Toutouse before noon.
Arithmetic ! How I detested it ! Anahide was
quick and sure with figures, so it was she who did my
sums. Little Marian despaired because of her writing ;
my father found it ugly. As mine was beautiful, I
covered the pages for her, and by making a few changes
here and there she was saved from great efforts.
The hours yawned with boredom. For distraction,
we changed our places every moment, pretending that
the sunlight was moving upon us, and the servants
left their sewing to rearrange our carpets, mattresses
and cushions. Then we compared our lessons. We
decided that the most difficult was geography, for my
father had given us those books in French, of which we
knew only the alphabet.
" He, ile, li-li-li," repeated Anahide. " It is land
surrounded by water. Lac, lac, cla-cla-cla ; it is water
surrounded by land."
From time to time, struck by a discovery, we dropped
the books to discuss it and to explain it to the servants,
whose astonishment at our culture flattered us agree-
ably. Thus Anahide informed us that Russia is above
the Caucasus. That meant that one only need climb
the highest mountains, like Elbrous or Ararat, to be in
Our sister Heguine alone was plunged sincerely into
the study of Persian history, from which she remem-
bered only the stories of the djinns, the peris and the
houris, without giving any attention to dynasties or
kings. Her fancy painted so well the ancient myths
and legends, added to the tales our servants told, that
my father, admirer of poetry and a poet himself, easily
forgave the complete absence of dates, dynasties and
peoples in her accounts of history.
As for me, I was only anxious to know if the author
of my book was right in saying that the seven lives of
cats were only a superstition. As I always saw cats
crouching mysteriously near the tripods of old serpent
charmers, and as I felt an incomprehensible fear of
them, I w r as persuaded that the author of my book was
mistaken. Since people believed that cats had seven
souls, they must have them.
It was finally decided to send one of the servants
to bring a cat to throw from the top of the tallest tree.
If the cat, dead for an instant, took again suddenly his
second soul, then he would have others. If he died at
once, then the author was right, and our belief a
The cat was soon brought, the servant climbed the
tree and threw him. We watched him whirl through
the air and strike the hard earth. There was an instant
of silence. The cat lay motionless. Then suddenly
he fled, with a frightful yowl. The people were right :
a cat had seven souls.
One day, suddenly, my sister Heguine complained
of a terrible toothache, she who had marvellous teeth.
Nani examined her mouth. " No, no, little daughter,
your teeth are like the snow on the mountains. There
is not the smallest speck on them."
But the pain grew worse. Heguine screamed. She
rolled on the earth, tearing at her hair and her lips.
Servants ran for my mother. She came quickly,
followed by the whole household. My sister could not
be comforted ; her shrieks pierced our hearts. Some
one was sent for the dandansaze. Every moment my
mother dispatched another servant to command him
Finally he arrived, the dandansaze. His air was
haughty and mysterious, and his look full of pride at
having been summoned by the great Khanoum, my
mother. He brought with him an enormous bag of
instruments, more mysteriously terrifying than their
owner. Stopping at a little distance, he uttered a few
cabalistic words, then, approaching my sister, he looked
at her fixedly. No effect ; Heguine continued to
scream. With solemn gestures he hung around her neck
a talisman on a thread. She did not stop shrieking.
Embarrassed, with a thousand apologies and obei-
sances, the dandansaze asked my mother's permission
to look into the mouth of the Khanoum Koutchoulou,
the little lady. My mother, hesitating, but distracted
by Heguine's suffering, consented ; the mouth opened.
The dandansaze stood astounded. There was no
sign of a sick tooth.
" Which tooth distresses the Khanoum Kout-
choulou ? " he asked.
" All of them ! " cried my sister. " All of them
hurt me ! "
" No, no, Khanoum ! " protested the dandansaze.
" Only one of them is sick, but the suffering is reflected
in them all. The sick tooth must be decayed at the
root like an old tree. That is why one can see nothing
" Show which one it is, my beloved ! " said my
mother, embracing my sister and weeping with her.
" I do not know. All of them — all — these two
" Yes, it must be one of these two," announced the
dandansaze. He touched them. " It is this one. It
must be pulled."
The servants cried out in horror, we wept, my
mother protested. Heguine, absorbed in her pain,
did not listen, but continued to weep. The dandan-
saze, bowing low to my mother, insisted obstinately
that the tooth should be pulled. At last the command
was given. At the appearance of enormous pincers,
large enough to pull the nails from a house-beam,
A desire to save her from the hands of the assassin
filled me with fury. I screamed and fought ; it was
already too late. A marvellous tooth was torn from
my sister's mouth. But the nerve was not yet cut ;
the poor tooth, like a pretty pearl, hesitated to fall.
My sister, roused by the pain, awoke, and fighting the
hand of the butcher kept him from finishing his work.
Embracing her head, kissing her eyes, weeping, I tried
to replace the tooth in its place
d.s. 1 5 B
Suddenly, silence. My father had arrived. Tremb-
ling, in a few words my mother explained the scene.
My father himself set the tooth back in its place,
commanding my sister to remain all that day with her
teeth clenched. Perhaps, the nerve not being cut, the
tooth might yet be saved. The dandansaze went away
in confusion, his great pincers having failed to pull one
little tooth. My father said to my mother, " Khan-
oum, instead of allowing your child to be disfigured
it would be better to prevent her from bathing at dawn
in the waterfall and thus taking cold." Then he
" The pain, little one, has it passed ? " old Nani asked
tenderly. Heguine nodded. " Khanoum," Nani said
to my mother, " I told you not to break the jaw of
this poor baby. It is because of some one's evil eye
that this calamity came so suddenly without visible
My mother was ready to believe it. She tenderly
supported Heguine toward the house. It was agreed
by all that my sister was the victim of a jealousy.
All that day the women of the village came to ask
news of the little one, each bringing remedies and
advice. Before evening Heguine's breast was covered
by talismans and amulets which my mother permitted
the peasants to lend her. Her feet wore countless
mysterious cords. She was seated on warm bricks, and
before her, on the red coals in a brazier, the excre-
ment of sparrows and hairs from a red horse's tail were
burned as a charm against evil spirits. The room was
filled with our nearest neighbours who had come,
according to our custom in times of affliction, to watch
through the night.
One of them brought a strangely shaped egg. She
assured my mother that it was the egg of a cock, and
that it would cure the sick who had the courage to
swallow it in its shell.
When night had fallen an assembly of neighbours
and servants squatted around Heguine's mattress.
Crouched beside her, I kept one of her hands in mine,
while my mother tenderly fondled the other, stooping
now and then to push the hair back from Heguine's
great sorrowful eyes and to kiss her pale cheek. Thus
we listened to a thousand stories of the evil eye of the
jealous and the envious, who by foul magic cause wicked
spirits to enter the mouth in the form of diseases, there
to pull the beautiful teeth and to cut the long hair of
little girls whose beauty, by attracting evil thoughts,
becomes the source of numerous woes. Therefore the
women lamented Heguine's beauty, saying that beauty
is ever a danger and a curse, the source of calamities, the
bringer of evil. Or perhaps it was the happiness and
prosperity of our parents that had brought upon little
Hcguine this terrible magic done by some bitter ill-
But in the morning Heguine was gay, and her tooth
was in its place, quite unharmed.
It was believed in all that country that the wicked
magic of some person envious of my parents had caused
my sister Katarine to languish in a mysterious illness, a
hidden evil which hollowed her checks, made her
beautiful hands as yellow as wax, and stabbed her like a
knife, now in the heart, now in the head. We cared
for her tenderly. We spoke of her as of a fleeting
visitor. To her the finest fruits, to her the best place,
the deepest shade beneath the trees, the softest cushions.
She was an idol, and every word that left her soft
mouth, deepened at the corners by a timid smile, had
for us the value of prophecy. All the singers, all the
musicians, all the charms and spells, had been tried in
vain ; nothing could prevent this little candle from
She knew, our Katarine, that she would leave us
soon, and as she knew that all little children go to
Heaven, she waited tranquilly for death, happy to
have been chosen by God to die before having
sinned. She knew that when she was near to God,
Who loves little children and listens to their words,
she would be able to befriend us all by persuading
Him to be lenient toward the sins of those who
were dear to her, and she began a thousand promises
with the words, " When God has taken me to
Our old aunt Djavahir had asked the honour of
sewing her shrouds before her death, according to the
immemorial custom of the Armenians, and these
shrouds were kept in a niche in our house, like sacred
Katarine knew these things (for in our country we
never hide death from those whom it approaches), and
in spite of her nine years that knowledge gave her an
aspect of wisdom and separated her from us. She
spent the days resting on cushions near our mother,
who, while embroidering tapestries, talked tenderly
with her dying child. At night she slept in the arms
of each of us in turn, and once a week she lay between
father and mother on the balcony, well protected from
the dampness of the night.
It was the sacred month of Mouharcm, in the
springtime. Beyond our little olive garden the scrolled
and painted mosque, usually so silently pointing toward
Heaven its long minaret-finger, now opened wide its
doors to throngs of the faithful. They came to mourn,
in that sorrowful month, the deaths of their saints
Hossein and Ali. In that same month long ago these
two martyrs fell beneath the green banner of Islam, and
since that time the Shiite Mussulman mourns for them
during forty days and nights of every year, honouring
their memory with chants and dancing and the thunder
of drums. They believe that if devotion to these two
martyrs remains faithful and strong the heroes will one
day be resurrected ; Ali, the nephew, the adopted son
and the son-in-law of the Prophet himself, and Hossein,
the son of Ali, will rise in the flesh to restore the true
dynasty of Mohammed upon earth.
Every evening during that long month of mourning
I was carried into the mosque in the arms of my Tartar
nurse, to whom my mother, faithful Christian though
she was, did not dream of refusing permission to fulfil
her religious duties. For my mother found it natural
that each race should have its own God and Prophets,
its own Heaven and Hell. I was too small to be ques-
tioned about my religion, and thus the doors of the
mosque, so rigidly closed to all unbelievers, opened
hospitably to the little intruder who watched eagerly
all the mysteries of that sacred place.
In the fantastic light of pine torches hundreds of
men, naked to the waist and with shaven heads, danced
around an old well that held the bones of those who had
beaten themselves to death in the dance. Led by a
chief who struck his head and slashed the air with a
hissing sword, they passed before my eyes in an endless
leaping circle, beating themselves with iron chains that
scattered drops of blood. Under the red light of the
torches, surrounded by agonized shadows, covered with
streaming blood and sweat, they danced and chanted
like visions from hell, while the drums beat like the
pulses of monstrous things, and all around them, close
against the walls, the crouching women sobbed.
" Khanoum Koutchoulou," admitted my old nurse,
leading me home through the cool darkness, " it is
true that your religion is easier than ours."
Indeed, our religion did not seem to me a very hard
thing. Our household was contented to thank God
for each meal, and to call Him to our aid in time of sick-
ness (not neglecting any charms that might also guard
against the servants of the Prince of Darkness). My
father agreed with his brother, the priest Ter-Barsegh,
in saying that God is everywhere at all hours, and
therefore we were permitted to pray to Him when we
chose. Before sleeping and after rising, kneeling beside
our mattresses on the floor, we earnestly repeated the
Lord's Prayer. As it was in classical Armenian, of
which we did not understand one word, we repeated it
as a cabalistic formula, and, like our Nani, we believed
that it was a charm to frighten evil spirits.
In addition to these prayers we observed faithfully
the Friday fast-day, and the six weeks of Lent, that time
when our poor Saviour suffered at the hands of Phari-
sees. During Lent we might not play the thar or
tambourine, wear gay dresses, or sing or laugh. The
women wore black, and sighed without ceasing ; we
children walked gravely. We felt everywhere, invisible
among us, the presence of a Divine and beautiful
Being Who was dying, the victim of His great love.
From our mother we learned that our great joy in
living was sinful, and that it was a sin to hate the
wicked or to resist evil, for the Saviour had said that
when struck on one cheek we must offer the other to be
struck also. Our little wild-animal minds were quite
overwhelmed by the impossibility of understanding
that we must not fight, complain, or, at the very least,
howl, when our brothers slapped us.
After six weeks of fasting and sorrow, we passed
through one day without a smile or a mouthful of food.
This was the day when our Saviour was dying, and we
suffered to repay Him for His long martyrdom and His
terrible death for us. At the end of that day we were
so happy to learn that He was truly dead now : it had
been so painful to feel His long agony that it was a joy
to know that it was ended. We slept tranquilly that
night, having first looked at the beautiful garments we
were to wear next day, and at the coloured eggs the
servants had been preparing for us all that week.
In the morning all the world was happy, the bells of
the churches were joyous. My mother, clasping us in
her arms, smiling again with her beautiful eyes and soft
lips, wished us joy, and told us that at last the Saviour
was saved. What happiness to know that He had
mounted into Heaven ! We were sure that in Heaven
He would not always be surrounded, as He was on earth,
by Pharisees. And what happiness to eat again kebab
of mutton, cakes and fresh butter instead of horrid
olive-oil ! And all with a light heart, because He was
dead on the cross for our sins, atoning for them all.
Now we were pardoned in advance for the sins of all the
We were quite convinced that our religion was better
than the Mussulman, and our old Nani, enlightened by
us on that point, regretted very much that their mul-
lahs had invented nothing to give them forgetfulness of
their sins. She thought magnificent our way of wiping
out ours by simply swallowing a little bread and some
consecrated wine. And as even she, a Mussulman, told
us that our religion was the most favourable for the life-
long tranquillity of the soul, we were firmly persuaded
Their Mouharem was harder than our Lent. Dur-
ing the whole time the Mussulman children wore deep
mourning ; from daybreak to sunset they neither ate
nor drank. And then the terrible penitence of the
dances in the mosque, where devotees, in order to
share the fate of their saints, beat themselves even to
death ! How happy for us that our religion did not so
torture our bodies, and that our gratitude to our
Saviour need not go so far !
In the middle of the night, awakened by the red
light that the torches threw upon the domes of our
churches, I heard the wild sound of their drums and
their terrible shrieks. With old Nani I climbed to the
roof of our house where all the Mussulman servants
crouched moaning, tearing their hair and their gar-
ments and covering their heads with ashes, while the
procession of penitents passed below. In spite of
myself, I burst into tears, and the servants, deeply
touched that a Christian should shed tears for their
Prophet, crawled to my feet, gratefully kissing my
hands and the hem of my nightrobe.
In my bed, after repeating ' Our Father,' I added,
" Dear, dear God, how happy I am that Thou hast
created me Christian and not Mussulman ! I would
never have been able to pull out my hair and to tear my
flesh, nor to see my father and brothers killing them-
selves in honour of the Prophet."
But, humbled by the sincerity and self-sacrifice of
those believers, I felt that they were more generous than
we, because their Prophet received from them a
profounder love than we gave our Saviour, tortured,
crucified and dead to atone to God for our sins. A
remorse gnawed ceaselessly at me during the forty days
of Mouharem. My sleep on those bloody nights was
unquiet, full of visions of the dead, and from time to
time I saw before me the beautiful and Divine Christ
Who smiled upon me sadly. I felt that He loved me
more than other Christians, because I alone knew that
He came in vain, that He was crucified in vain, and
that we, ungrateful after all He had sacrificed for us,
had drawn from His words and His death only that
which enabled us to forget our sins.
It was the heavy hour of noon. The sun, tired of
climbing, stopped at the summit of the sky, and like a
monster in anger poured down upon us his burning
rays. The earth hardly breathed in the heat, the birds
and all the little insects of the grass were silent. Far
in the distance I heard a flute.
It was not a wedding : nuptial melodies awoke us at
dawn, singing joy, hope, victory. This flute tore at
the heart and penetrated the soul like the wailing of a
child. It was the flute that followed Mingula, my
cousin possessed by demons, who was being led to
dance on the tombs of the saints.
Two aged figures, bent silhouettes, supported her.
She was adorned as if for a fete. She reeled as she
walked, like one drunken with wine. Her glossy hair
and the sorrowful curve of her black eyebrows showed
through the red veil. Her bracelets made a continuous
sound, a sound like the rattling of teeth in an uncon-
trollable shiver. The passers-by avoided her as one
avoids a leper.
She fell. The old women, terrified, bent above her,
murmuring incantations. The musician knelt to play
into the ears of the prostrate one and thus give her life
again. The flute called to her tenderly, pleading,
coaxing ; then, suddenly no longer speaking to her, but
to the demons who contended for her beautiful body,
the music became vehement, accusing, terrible. A
flutter of her hands replied. The old women lifted her
to her feet.
Again propped by their bodies she continued her
pilgrimage. The flute-player followed. The flute
sang of courage, of endeavour, of brave struggle against
the powers of darkness that held her. Her body began
to move in faltering rhythms ; she danced. Her
clenched hands, now upraised, now striking upon her
breast, expressed the anguish of life and death, the
longing for rest, the terror of remaining in this world
where one suffers so much, the dread of the unknown
beyond death. How much agony there was in those
gestures, now clutching at hope, now struggling for
resignation ! I could not look any longer ; I ran
blindly from the gateway into the gardens, stumbled,
fell, and lay motionless on the grass, covering my ears
with my arms to shut out the sound of the flute.
The next day my mother took me to see Mingula.
More beautiful in her shrouds than she had been in her
brilliant robes, she lay in the middle of a vast room.
The gentle light of candles caressed her serene face.
The violet hands of the mourners tightened from time
to time the white band around her chin. Upon her
death-bed she seemed remote and eternal as a mummy
from the times of Pharaoh.
" My daughter, my child ! " her mother chanted,
shaking the folded dead hands as if to awaken her.
" Must I grow old, only to see thee, thee so young,
stretched out before me in thy shroud ? Oh, Min-
gula ! Mingula ! "
" Mingula ! Mingula ! " the mourners repeated,
like an echo, striking their knees with their violet-
" Even yesterday, in thy nuptial garments, wert
thou not like a bride awaiting her husband on the
threshold of his chamber ? " her mother cried. " What
have I failed to give thee to-day, Mingula, that not even
thine eyelids quiver at my call ? Mingula ! Min-
gula ! "
And again the mourners repeated the name like an
echo far away, while weeping filled the farthest corners
of the room.
Unnoticed in a dark niche, my face wet with tears, I
saw Mingula in the white sunlight of yesterday. I saw
that body, now grave and motionless as an image of
stone, clinging to life in rhythmic convulsions, as the sea
clings to the shore. Again I covered my face, to shut
out that dance of the frantic body trying to hold the
But Mingula remained in the depths of my spirit, to
inspire long years afterward, in moments of desolation
and pain, the expressive gestures of a rhythmic sorrow.
Upon the inflamed horizon the sun, draped in ragged
blue clouds, fell like an old king in anguish. The brief
Caucasian twilight followed his path above the moun-
On the trails appeared the slowly moving grey and
black files of the flocks, urged down to the folds by
shepherds and their dogs. On the footpaths that led to
the springs the red veils of the Armenian women moved
to and fro. Their bracelets tinkled, the copper heels of
their shoes made delicate clinking sounds upon the
slabs of stone. One by one they went down to the pool,
in twos and threes they returned, enriched with the
fresh water that brimmed their balanced jars and with
the village news gleaned from the gossip at the spring.
The bells of the leaders of the flocks tinkled, the dogs
barked. A labourer passed with his scythe. It might
have been the new moon that he carried on his shoulder ;
his step was sure, accustomed to tread without faltering
the edges of great chasms ; his turbaned head was thrown
back, his eyes keen as a huntsman's, his body supple.
He advanced noiselessly and proudly like a panther. In
passing he would throw us a " Good day," and we
replied, " God's day."
An uproar, and we all scurried. My brothers were
returning from hunting. Burned by the sun, exuber-
ant, surrounded by hurrying servants, they came through
the gardens, displaying the numbers of pheasants slung
on their guns.
The sun disappeared suddenly, and twilight went
with him. In a moment, night painted black the blue
of the sky, and the first stars pierced the darkness.
Dinner was ready on the balcony. In the middle of a
large cloth spread on a carpet the candles stood pro-
tectcd from the wind by glass shades. From copper
plates many kinds of vegetables and several tiny moun-
tains of variously coloured rice poured out their odours
of spices and saffron. In a large earthen basin filled
with snow a golden melon crushed heaps of grapes,
plums and cucumbers. A sheepskin filled with wine
lay beside a porous clay vase of cool water. The
pheasants, in rows on the platters, all with their little
claws crisped and their breasts stuffed with raisins and
onions, awakened in us an instant of melancholy com-
passion, without diminishing in the least our eagerness
to eat them. Before each of us, on a painted plate, our
bread, thin and transparent as paper, lay ready to serve
as fork and napkin. Not having dreamed of forks or
napkins, we wrapped the bread about our fingers in
order to eat daintily.
We stood while awaiting the entrance of my father
and brothers. They entered in hierarchal order, and
my brothers ranged themselves at my father's right on
little mats laid around the cloth. In the same order we
were placed at the left of our mother. The Christian
servants came to stand behind us. The Mussulman ser-
vants were absent ; they took their meals apart because
their religion forced them to regard us as impure.
A short prayer. Then the men took off their high
fur bonnets, which they laid behind them on the carpet.
The women kept their veils lowered, but we young
children were freer ; our faces were uncovered, but the
movements of our mouths were uncertain and difficult
for fear of showing our teeth, which in modesty we must
hide. The young spoke very little, the servants less
than their masters. We children listened to our ciders
in silence, and replied with gestures. There was a
continual movement around us ; a neighbour arrived,
a few peasants came to talk of business affairs with my
father. They were at once invited to share our dinner.
From time to time the servants carried around the
platters of food, walking across the cloth on naked feet
that moved carefully among the dishes. Their veils
fluttered like butterflies above the candles.
It was night, the mysterious night of shadow and
stars. My father talked with the peasants, my mother
sat on the balcony holding in her arms our beautiful
fading Katarine. I was alone in the garden. I walked
there like a princess, a mysterious sorrowful happiness
overflowing my soul. I felt the souls of the roses, of the
trees, of the grass, of all the living things of the world,
loosed from their bondage and melting into the shadows
of the night. The breeze touched my cheeks like invis-
ible fingers. Outside the walls of the garden music
Its many voices came from the camp of the sick, our
summer visitors. For our little village of Zergueran
was not only the most beautiful nook in all the Cauca-
sus, it was also chosen to be blessed by Heaven. Miracu-
lous waters sprang from the white breasts of our moun-
tains into hundreds of basins cut in the rock ; these
pools were able to cure all the sicknesses of the world.
It was said that these waters had been given us by the
magic of an old sibyl, who thus repaid our humble
peasants for their kindness to the poor old witch. The
gratitude of this good sibyl, long since dead, still nour-
ished so well the inhabitants of Zergueran that they did
no work, but lived happily, well fed by our multitudes
of visitors. During the summer these sufferers came
from all the peoples and tribes of leagues around, and
our true believers only prayed to the good God to
multiply for our prosperity the numbers of blind, lame
and paralysed who might leave their afflictions in our
To welcome them we had neither sanitoriums, hotels
nor casinos, but since Allah had spread over us the arch
of his great blue palace no one lamented the lack of these
unknown comforts. Surrounded by their families, the
sick were brought to us on mules or in wooden-wheeled
carts drawn by oxen, and with them came their houses,
lengths of silk or linen or bales of rugs. Stitched
together with cords or withes of straw, these became the
multitudes of tents that rose on all the pleasant spots
among our cliffs and spread far out on the plain. The
households brought with them flocks of sheep, goats,
chickens and cows, that made a happy and exciting
uproar enlivened by the ferocious barking of guardian
dogs, as fierce as the hyenas of the cemeteries.
Amid such surroundings the sick were never bored.
The days were a continuous fete. During the torrid
hours of blazing sun the miraculous springs were filled
with bathers. At the first breeze of evening these came
from the waters and prepared for the night's festivities.
At that hour we saw the Mussulmans prostrate on their
rugs, the Christians telling their beads, the Jews with
little black cubes tied to their brows, the pagans making
their off crings at little fires. Tartars, Armenians, Cir-
cassians, all forgot their centuries of hate, and lived and
prayed each to his own gods in amity together, during
those summer months by our pools.
After the evening prayer all gave themselves care-
lessly to life and its joys. Music and song rose like an
incense from the clustered tents : here a flute, monoton-
ous and full of longing, wailed to the stars the yearning
of the East for the Infinite ; there a savage drum gave
sound to the rhythm of the Universe ; near-by a nasal
voice mourned the losing all human joys in death, and
far out on the plain a shepherd with a reed glorified the
rising sun and the song of birds. Other shepherds in a
group sang naive happy verses, while the Arab and the
Persian drew from their breasts in melancholy melody
their unutterable longings for happiness. All these
voices rising above the dark tree-tops floated up the
immense heights of the mountains, where an echo hid-
den in the rocks softly repeated the songs to please
the jackals and hyenas that watched from the preci-
It was then that all Asia lay at our feet beneath the
stars, Asia, with its profound melancholy, its languor,
its mysticism, its vague desire for death and its ardent
love of life. To my heart of a child these voices brought
a sense of beauty and of pain, and the mystery of exist-
ence seemed to penetrate like a mist the red veils and
the silken folds that wrapped my small body. I melted,
I dissolved into the stars and the night, while my feet,
accompanied by the clinking of the anklets I had put
on at play, led me as though in enchantment toward a
white figure that danced near the pools.
It was the beautiful daughter of a household near our
own. Only a few weeks ago she had been married to a
young sculptor of amber, and never had our village seen
a festivity so glorious as her wedding. Her father, in
honour of his only child, had spread for all comers a
feast that surpassed all feasts in richness and plenty.
Flocks of sheep had been slaughtered ; mountains of rice
perfumed with saffron were heaped in multitudes of
gold and silver dishes ; sweetmeats of all kinds, dates, figs,
and piles of honeycomb were offered to all. In the
midst of the garden, upon a raised platform, the young
husband sat cross-legged like a sultan on his throne, two
scarves crossed on his breast, and his feet resting on rugs
surrounded by innumerable trays of food, platters of
fruit and amphorae of wine. Our peasants, between
eating and drinking, danced to the music of horns blown
by our mountaineers, while on the white balcony of the
house women in many-coloured veils surrounded the
young wife who listened silently to the nuptial chants.
All this was too beautiful, too splendid, not to arouse
envy in the hearts of the wicked. By their curses and
their enchantments the young wife had fallen into the
power of the demons.
Hardly had she been married when she felt herself
suffocating. Fever came into her garden and blew its
hot breath upon her. Charms could not keep it away.
Then she coughed ; there was blood on her lips, and she
felt herself menaced by death. My father declared to
her people that she was consumptive and needed only
rest, good food and much sunshine, but our village
always doubted those who knew the meaning of written
words, since those who could read and write on talis-
mans often brought evil. Therefore no one listened to
my father, but a famous wise woman was brought to
give her advice.
" It is the work of evil spirits," she said. " Demons
exhaust her in this manner. You have called me too
late. Only one thing may perhaps save her. She must
dance without stopping for three days and nights.
Made uneasy by her ceaseless movements and by the
u.s. 31 c
shrill sound of the flutes the evil spirits may perhaps
So the sick girl was brought to the miraculous pools
and bathed. Then, dressed in the bridal garments that
had brought upon her the jealousy of the wicked, decked
in her jewels, apart from the crowds, she danced, upheld
by her mother and grandmother.
She danced, slim and ghostly before the dark rocks,
beside the deserted pools. Sometimes her movements
were slow ; they expressed sorrow and her longing to
stay by the side of her dear husband. Sometimes they
were fast and furious ; her whirling arms and struggling
body protested against Death that would take her from
all she loved — her gardens, the sunshine, and the songs of
her birds. Then her gestures, slow and yielding like
those of a tired child, offered to God her resignation to
His mysterious wish. When, half-fainting, she lifted up
her beautiful feverish eyes towards the dark and indif-
ferent Heaven, I could not doubt that, softened by the
efforts of this dying creature, Heaven would abandon
its indifference and give her the little thing she asked —
only a few years more in the radiance of the sun.
But Heaven did not relent. Even while I watched,
on the third night of her dancing suddenly blood flowed
black on her white veils, she shuddered, her tired arms
fell, and she hung motionless in the arms of her mother.
Only the shrill flutes, played by the squatting musicians
in the shadows, went on for a moment before they, too,
She was dead, and dressed in a shroud she lay stretched
out on rugs in her house, surrounded by the hired
weepers kneeling in their blue garments of mourning.
Murmuring the old litanies of sorrow, they rhythmically
struck their withered knees with their violet hands,
bending and swaying in the dance of grief. Then she
was buried ; she was spoken of a little and heard of no
more. Only I, for a long time, searched among the
women possessed by demons in the hope of finding
among them another girl as sweet and beautiful as she.
Always after that time, those who suffered from mys-
terious ills drew me toward them while they sought
relief or forgetfulness in the dance. Most mysterious of
them all, to me, were the chamanns, dervishes of the
Mongols, who came to us from some far-away steppe.
From time to time they would dance their strange
dance of epilepsy through which they reached the peace
that is nirvana. Their dance, more violent, more fan-
atic, and more exalted even than those of the possessed
women, filled my heart with fascinated horror. Fol-
lowed by our old Nani, I hastened always toward the
sound of their savage drums and their shrill cries, and
stood trembling like a bird before a snake.
Having whirled for a long time to the wild and savage
cadences of the drums, they ceased to breathe. Only
occasionally and very heavily their chests sobbed, while
the dance became more frenzied, their hands struck
their breasts, and their eyes became immensely enlarged.
Then one by one they fell as though in a drunken
lethargy. Piously they were covered with cloths and
left lying hours upon hours, lost in that nirvana of
absolute not-being for which they had longed as men in
the desert long for water.
Nirvana. Nothingness. The eternal desire of man-
kind. Too young to know the bewilderment and soul-
sickness of watching the ceaselessly changing appear-
ances, the innumerable veils of illusion that surround us,
I did not understand the thirst for oblivion that tor-
mented these dancers. But I felt their agony of weari-
ness that drove them to such efforts, and my mind
struggled to comprehend the mysterious sorrows and
joys that moved beyond their gloomy or delirious eyes.
My uncle, the priest Ter-Barsegh, patriarch of the
village of Zergueran, loved to sit through the summer
evenings on the balcony of his house with his people
gathered around him. The village was going to sleep,
the winds were still, and the noisy waters of the Arat,
for ever at war with the rocks in its path below, spoke to
us of the joys of peace. While the large stars came out
above the mountains, and music rose from the tents at
the foot of the cliffs, my uncle began those tales that
often until midnight held us breathless. He was a well
of those old legends that for centuries have been handed
about among the people of the Caucasus, and none could
tell them as he could.
At this hour the labourers had put the buffaloes into
their dark stables, and the shepherds had fastened in the
fold their goats and their lambs. The women, coming
home from the fountain, had placed the brimming jaj
in its niche, had served the simple meal of cheese, fruits
and wild honey, and had laid the children to sleep on
rugs. Their day's work done, they prepared to visit
my uncle, that they might hear his marvellous tales.
Over their coarse blue blouses the men put on coats of
thick black satin striped with gold, and they replaced
their cotton turbans by heavy fur bonnets, that .they
might appear in dignified garb before their venerable
priest, and in favourable aspect before the eyes of the
women. Meanwhile the women added to their ordinary
dress of rainbow-coloured skirt and wide-sleeved blouse
their velvet jackets of many colours striped with gold,
and clasped about their waists girdles of carved silver.
Carefully swathed in many veils of red, they followed
the men up the steep path that led to my uncle's bal-
cony, and sat in decorous order upon the straw matting
that covered its floor of earth. Beneath them, in the
stable that, like the upper stories of the house, was half-
carved in the steep slope and half- walled with rock, my
uncle's buffaloes and his sheep were munching the last
of their straw and settling themselves to sleep.
The house of our Uncle Ter-Barsegh was above ours,
on the cliff that walled our fruit gardens and not far
from our waterfall that fell from the rocks on its way to
join the Arat. Since it was not outside our own gardens
we could go there whenever we liked, even without old
Nani, and often after supper we climbed the narrow
trail to join the peasants on that pleasant balcony.
While waiting for the stories to begin the men lighted
their pipes and smoked gravely, looking out upon the
gorges and the cliffs that imprison the rebellious Arat.
Against the sky stood Odzissar, the mysterious moun-
tain that none dared approach. On its topmost peak, in
an onyx throne surrounded by multitudes of venomous
serpents, sat the Queen of all the reptiles in the world.
In her mouth she held a diamond which, one night in
every year, she spat into the air. At that moment, we
were told, the darkness around the earth was lighted by
its Hashing. Only certain of the initiate and powerful,
the sorcerers and kings, could behold that light.
A torch of resinous pine, fastened to the stone wall of
my uncle's house, kept the shadows at bay. They
lurked among the twisted trunks of the aged trees that
enclosed the balcony. From the branches of the trees
came a low sound, as though the night were breathing
all around us. But in the strong light of the torch,
which could resist the most furious wind, the mountain
people in their brilliant colours resembled a flower
garden. There was nothing to fear while we were near
my uncle, who sat in our midst upon an embroidered
cushion, his eyes benevolent and his long beard like a
drift of snow upon his breast.
The evening began always with a solemn recitation of
the Shasaka, the Rosary of Jewels. This was a litany
invoking under names of magnificence and splendour
God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost,
their archangels and their angels. To this my uncle
added an invocation addressed to Satan, Prince of the
Shadows and Master of the Abysses.
My uncle ended his incantation. He smoked his pipe
for a long time in a profound silence. We were aware
of the night, and of the deepening coolness of the moun-
tain air. Djavahir, the bowed old wife of Uncle Ter-
Barsegh, the one-eyed, bitter woman, stealthily brought
from the house a glowing brazier. Its light upon her
withered face was like that of a sorcerer's furnace. I
could never realize that this hideous person had been
the most beautiful of the village women fifty years
before ; but it must have been so, for legend said that
the sun itself had hidden its face behind the clouds in
jealousy whenever she came out on Sundays in her
garments embroidered with silver and gold.
Then my uncle began his tale. What treasures he
had stored in that venerable head, behind those eyes
that had watched a hundred and one years pass over our
mountains ! Things seen and heard, old myths, legends
and traditions, all gathered into a Christian faith that
embraced all religions, a faith in which all roads, even
the most shadowy, led to Paradise. His voice revived
for us the chimeras of old times, peopled the night with
four-headed dragons, with flying horses from whose
nostrils came smoke, with witches' revels and the cruel
love-making of demons.
" Our village," began my uncle, " was formerly only
a few huts perched here upon the precipice. There
lived in it hunters and men who were skilful in robbing
the wild bees of their honey, which abounded in all the
forests. In one of the huts lived a young hunter. He
was tall and strong, but he lived alone ; he had no wife.
" One day he went into the forests to kill deer. He
went far, and it was late when he saw a buck with great
horns, that saw him and fled. He followed it, hot with
the chase, and did not heed where he went. But night
was upon him, the buck vanished among the trunks of
trees, and the young hunter saw that he was in the
strange forest of Odzissar. He stood and gazed, and he
saw beside the trail a beautiful young girl who wept.
Her long hair covered her arms and knees, and he could
not see her face.
" * What can I do to comfort thee, beautiful one ? '
he asked. She did not reply, but continued to weep.
1 Tell me thy sorrow,' said the hunter with tenderness,
and came close to her. She was silent. He drew aside
her hair and stood without breath, marvelling at a
beauty of which he had never seen the equal. Two
eyes, clear and deep, sent a glance to the roots of his soul
and kindled there one of the loves that do not cease
burning till death extinguishes them. ' Tell me,' lie
murmured, ' why dost thou weep ? '
" c I was asleep,' said the girl, ' until thy coming
wakened me. I saw thee, and my soul left me and
clung to thy feet, never to be separated from thee. I
am not thy wife, therefore I weep.'
" There were no words in the mouth of the young
hunter. He lifted the girl and held her to his heart.
Then drunken with j oy he returned to the village. The
mountaineers celebrated their wedding with music of
pipes and flutes, and left them happy in his cabin.
" Then day and night were sweet as honey to the
young hunter. Singing strange songs, his wife walked
about his house ; she spread the cushions upon the floor
and made beautiful for him the platters of fruit and of
rice. He hunted through all the mountains and sold
to wandering foreigners the skins of deer and the horns
of stags, in order to buy for her bangles of gold and
bracelets and collars set with amber and coral, which
sang together when she danced for him.
" One morning, hardly yet awakened, the young hun-
ter was perfuming with sandalwood the heavy tresses
her beloved head, when a knock was heard at the door.
The young wife ran laughing to open it. An old fakir
stood on the threshold. The skin of a lion hung from
his naked shoulders, another was about his loins. He
leaned on a staff, and on his hand was a great ring of
onyx. He asked for shelter.
" ' Enter, old man, in the name of God and all the
Prophets," said the hunter, and he commanded his wife
to bring the best of their food for the venerable guest.
She set before them goats' milk, wild honey and grapes,
and she went into the garden to gather fresh figs.
The old man sat, and he and the young hunter ate
" ' You have great courage, O my son,' said the old
fakir. ' I wear the skin of a lion, but you have his heart
in your breast. Only one with more than human
courage could marry a serpent and live with her in
" ' What dost thou say ? ' cried the young husband.
He rose, enraged, to drive the old man from the hut.
' Thou art no true fakir, but an evil man with lies upon
thy tongue ! '
" ' Wait, my son,' said the fakir, and smiled. He held
out his hand, on which the onyx ring was like a pool
of milky water. ' Behold this onyx. It will become
black in the presence of a serpent who wears the form
of a woman.'
" At this moment the young wife came in from the
garden, bearing a dish of copper filled with purple figs,
and looking meekly on the earth. The young hunter
saw the ring become black.
" ' O cursed old man ! ' he cried, when the young
woman was gone. ' Give me proof that thou art not a
messenger from the depths below, or thou wilt not go
out from here alive.'
" ' I will do so,' said the fakir, who had not ceased to
smile. And he told the young man to put into the food
of his wife a great quantity of salt, to empty the water-
jar, and to fasten the door and window that night. ' Lie
down and pretend to sleep, and thou shalt see what
thou shalt see.'
" As he had said, so the young man did. At midnight
the young wife awoke. She rose and went to the water-
jar and found it dry. She went to the door, and it was
locked. She sighed. She pulled at the bars of the
window, but they did not yield. She moaned, and
walked to and fro. Then she stopped above her hus-
band and looked at him attentively.
" As he appeared to be quietly sleeping she became
calm. She went to the chimney, rested her beautiful
bare arms against the wall, and again looked at him.
Then she put her head into the fire-place, and the blood
of the young hunter became snow-water as he beheld
the most hideous of abominations. He saw the slender,
graceful neck of his wife change into the body of a ser-
pent, stretch out longer and longer. Entering the
chimney and passing over the roof, it balanced in the
air outside the window its foul head of a viper, opened
eagerly its mouth in which whistled a double-pronged
tongue, and stretched to the borders of the Arat.
Seeing the water before her, she bent downward her
horrible head and for a long time remained, pressing her
serpent's mouth to the river. The stream dwindled
and grew weak, its noise was stilled. The Arat was dry
when her thirst was quenched, and she lifted the long
undulating neck. It rose inthe air, and became shorter.
The head again passed the window, it came down the
chimney, and appeared once more as the beautiful head
of a woman on the woman's body that waited for it.
The young wife wiped her crimson lips, wet from the
river, and trembling came toward her husband. See-
ing him still as though asleep, she smiled, and
stretching herself beside him laid her arms about his
neck and slept. But the husband, neither sleep-
ing nor waking, remained rigid in the embrace of
" At dawn he went to the fakir and begged to be told
how to get rid of this monster that was his wife. ' There
is only one way,' said the fakir. ' She must be burnt
alive.' And lie told the young man how this should be
" Accordingly, that day when the young wife leaned
above the furnace where she was preparing to bake
bread, her husband suddenly pushed her into the living
coals and rolled a great rock upon the opening.
" ' Why dost thou burn me, O my beloved ? ' cried
his wife's voice. ' What harm have I ever done thee ?
Were we not happy ? Woman or serpent, did I not
love thee more than the light of my eyes ? Was I not
sweet to thy lips and a joy to thy heart ? O my
beloved ! O my beloved ! We were so happy ! ' The
voice became a groan and a sigh, and the young hunter
heard no more.
" Then sorrow took hold of him, and he remembered
the beauty and the clear laughter of his wife. He
remembered the care she had for his comfort, he remem-
bered her smiles and the soft arms in which he had slept,
and the mouth, red and fresh as a flower, that wakened
him with kisses in the dawn. He tore his garments and
flung himself on the ground.
" ' O fakir, cursed among men ! Why didst thou bring
me knowledge that killed my happiness ? Why didst
thou make me see, when I was blinded with joy ? Curses
on the light that shows me grief ! Curses on the truth
that is bitter, when lies were sweet ! O sorrowful God
Who knowest all things, why couldst Thou not leave
me happy in my little ignorance ? '
" He tore the stone from the furnace. There was
naught but ashes and one small coal that still burned
like a closing eye. He placed it upon his two eyeballs and
put out the light that showed him the world. Then,
blinded, he gathered up his garments and set out to
look for death. No man has seen him since that day.
" As for the fakir, he gathered carefully the ashes of
the burned body, and as by rubbing them he was able
to change into gold the meanest of metals, he soon
became the richest and most respected man in all the
Orient. But it is said he was never happy, because to
the day of his death he was tormented by a thirst that
was never quenched, and in his ears when he died was
the hissing of many serpents."
On my uncle's balcony a sound like that of a forest
in a light wind came from the crowd. My uncle
emptied his pipe and thrust it back among the folds of
his girdle, then he turned his eyes toward the mountain
Odzissar that rose shadowy against the dark sky like the
bonnet of a fakir. Always when he had finished his tale
he told us what the weather would be next day. To-
night he said, " Morning will bring us a tempest from
the inferno. I hear the whistling of the serpents'
The summer ended, the rose-petals fell, and in their
place appeared the red rose-berries. We should have
gone to our winter home in Shamahka, but the death of
our Katarine, which we awaited, held us in the country.
A strange serenity filled our lives, our voices were low,
our movements gentle. One would have said that the
moon was broken, to fill us with its light.
The last moment came. Kneeling around the low
couch we awaited in reverent silence, as for the touch
of a sacrament, the instant when her pure soul, flutter-
ing like the flame of an expiring candle, should mysteri-
ously depart. Already she had been given the bath of
the dead ; she lay wrapped in her shrouds, and from
time to time we lifted and piously kissed their hems.
By what heedlessness of destiny had she come into the
world, our little martyr with the sad smile which
remained unchanged even when death had gently
closed her uncomplaining lips ?
All through the night we watched beside her, recall-
ing her last words and all her last gestures, which seemed
to us filled with mystic meanings.
At dawn all the village was in our garden and in the
court, where the men were solemnly seated upon car-
pets. Through the open doors of the house poured the
lamentations of the hired mourners who knelt around
the couch of the dead. Impassive and white, in the
midst of their hypocritical blue mourning garments, she
seemed carved of marble.
Soon, all together, we accompanied her to the church.
Two of our brothers carried the litter on which she lay,
covered with a white cloth. Behind it walked my
uncle, the priest Ter-Barsegh. In order to shorten the
tedium of the long Mass he had begun it, as was his
custom, while putting on his funeral robes ; he con-
tinued it while on the way, and finished it on entering
It was ended. We should never see her any more.
And the thought that this very night the jackals and the
blood-suckers of Tcrjan-Bagh would come to disturb
the light earth above her and to appease their bloody
thirst upon this poor little body, stopped the flow of
life in my veins. My mother in her violet mourning
veils fell upon the body, fiercely holding it to her breast.
Unconscious, she was drawn away.
And when she returned to her sorrow, outside, in
the sunshine, all around us life had already resumed
its alluring carelessness. The preparations for the
funeral fete, more lavish than those for a wedding,
engrossed a hundred old women. The young were
laughing and chattering of everyday affairs, the half-
naked children leaped and tumbled around the braziers,
attracted by the curious odours of the funeral meats
perfumed with herbs gathered from the cemetery.
Only our anguished hearts cried out for Katarine,
the little motionless prayer that had gone from us to
Christmas found us still at Zergueran, on that
holiest of all the days on which the Christians of the
village assembled to listen to the words of my uncle.
My uncle, the priest Ter-Barsegh, was not one of the
great dignitaries of the Church who wear the tiara
sparkling with sapphires and the scarf embroidered
with pearls, but he was nevertheless greatly revered
by all the villagers of Zergueran. Tall, majestic, his
long hair whitened by the winters of more than a
hundred years, he might have been taken for the patri-
arch Noah himself when in the evening he stood on
the terrace watching the sunset walk with golden feet
on the heights above the gorges. His eyes were calm
and his hands were folded beneath the long white beard
that swayed against his robe with the gentle motion of
a willow bough.
He knew neither Latin nor Greek, but he was a wise
man and a scholar. He had only one book, the Bible,
which for thirty years had lain unopened, gnawed by
the rats in his little half-ruined chapel ; but he knew
by heart all the Book of Job, the Songs of Songs, and
the Apocalypse. To these he added visions of his
own, worthy of the most saintly hermits of Biblical
times. Although, with the passage of years, he had
forgotten even the alphabet, this slight lack did not in
any way lessen either his wisdom or his great knowledge.
He was not only a scholar but a saint, whom God
had greatly blessed. Father of eighteen sons, each of
whom had begotten at least as many, his horn was
indeed a horn of plenty.
No corner of the universe more needed the refresh-
ment of the holy teaching than our beautiful Zergueran,
trampled over now by the children of Islam, now by
the followers of the great Buddha. Among so many
faiths the Christians of Zergueran would surely have
been lost without their shepherd, the priest Ter-
Barsegh, who taught them the Truth of Truths,
and at each village festival they listened gladly to the
splendour of his words, which showed them the gates
of the eternal Eden and the abysses of hell.
The most solemn of these festivals was that of
Christmas. At that time the good Christian was
blessed and pardoned for all the past year ; at that
time he was allowed to kiss reverently the right hand
of my uncle, which was called " The Holy Hand."
While the edges of the lofty rocks were still golden
and the first star shone in the pale sky of that evening,
we saw the faithful slowly climbing the path that led
to my uncle's stable. Against the steep slope the low
stone walls looked like part of the mountain itself ;
the arched doorway, dimly lighted from within by
torches, seemed the mouth of a cave, and into it, one
by one, passed tall men in bonnets of fur, women
covered with red veils and holding their nurslings to
their breasts, little girls whose eyes shone through
veils of green and blue. They entered the low, dim
place, where the breath of the cows and the odour of
dung and straw mingled so well with the smoke of
torches and the perfume of sandalwood that one could
believe himself among the groves of the cherubim.
On that evening my uncle combed his hair and his
beard and put on his new vestment. Then for a time
he walked alone on his balcony, while in the stable
beneath his feet the Christians of the village assembled.
When all was ready he descended, and appeared
before the eyes that looked upon him reverently.
He knew everything, my uncle ; he knew the begin-
ning of the world and its end, how and where Paradise
had been built, and what were the colours of hell, full
of demons with tails three yards long and tongues that
hung to the earth. He knew what made the earth-
quakes that so often shattered our cliffs. He could
point out — and never make a mistake — the witches and
magic-workers who brought down upon us the pests
that devoured the flocks and the cholera that desolated
homes. Although he himself was not a sorcerer, he
knew how to cast and to take off spells. And with
what generosity he distributed talismans ! How many
holy formulae he knew, to bring us rain during the dry
months or to guard against tempests on vintage days !
So highly was he regarded in Heaven that when,
even by chance, he pronounced the name of Saint
Karapet or Saint Kirakos, a soul that had been lost
among the wandering dead passed rejoicing from the
cursed fields to the joys of Paradise.
" On this day of Christmas, day of the birth of the
son of God, God's son created our father Adam,"
began my uncle. " By the grace of God — may the
songs of cherubim delight both His ears for ever ! —
we have come again to this anniversary of the birth
of His Son. In order that He might be born, die
and come to life again each year, like the flowers and
fruit-trees, God made Him of a different substance
than ours. Such was the will of the Almighty."
My uncle made the sign of the cross, which was
repeated by all the assembly.
" In the beginning," continued my uncle, " there
were only immense gardens of golden trees under
which, lying at ease on the grass, the Almighty listened
to the songs of cherubim. But because there was no
envious eye to behold — and by beholding, to increase
— His happiness, the idea came to Him to create Satan,
to give him wings and power and to reveal to him the
mystery of birth and death."
Consternation passed through the listeners like a wind
through grass. The name of Satan had been pro-
nounced ! Without doubt the Evil One had entered,
invisible, and remained there watchful lest he be too
But there was nothing to fear. Each time he spoke
the dreadful name my uncle bowed respectfully.
Satan, being the creation of God, might one day be
pardoned and restored to his place near the Throne ;
it was therefore wise to fear and propitiate him.
My uncle spoke in quite a different manner of the
little demons, the djinns. They were creations of
Satan, and moreover these turbulent active little
beings were only apprentices to the Prince of the
Abysses. My uncle treated them as befitted their
rank, and sometimes even went so far as to abuse them.
" But Satan, not content weakly to envy and to
d.s. 47 d
admire God, set out to create for himself a kingdom
of his own. Beholding the multitudes of djinns which
Satan loosed upon the earth, God repented His deed,
and summoned to Him the Angel Gabriel.
" ' Gabriel,' said He, ' what can be done against
the mischief-making of My latest creation ? '
" * My Father,' replied the Angel Gabriel, ' the
mistake has been made. Complaining will not wipe
out an error. It must be righted. It is clear that
Thou hast not time, Thyself, to attend to the welfare
of both Thy Heaven and Thy earth. Therefore
create for the pleasure of Thine eyes a Son Who will
govern the earth, leaving to Thee only the care of
Heaven. And tell Thy Son to create men to serve Him.
Let there be as many of these as Satan has big and little
djinns, and let Thy Son and His creatures contend with
Satan and his djinns.'
" ' Gabriel,' replied God, ' in this matter thou art
wiser than I. It shall be as thou hast said.'
" Thereupon He created out of the clouds the
Virgin Mary and set her upon earth. Then He
descended unto her in the shape of a dove and she
conceived a son whom she brought forth in the twink-
ling of an eye.
" At once the Son of God created from the dust
Adam, our ancestor. Adam arose, and taking from his
side a rib he held it out toward God the Son, saying,
' I want a woman. Create for me a woman.' And
God the Son took the rib, stirred up with it the dust
beneath the feet of Adam, spat upon it, and behold !
there was Eve, our sinning mother, who caused all
misfortune to fall upon our heads.
" There was no virtue in her. By reason of gluttony,
curiosity and disobedience, she, our mother Eve,
received Satan the enemy in her garden, listened to
his words, and ate of the apple which he gave her.
Then in His anger God the Father cursed her and her
children with bitter curses, so that the anger of God
has never departed from us.
" Cursed be the woman ! " cried my uncle. " Cause
of our perdition, bringer of woe, calamity of calamities,
curses upon her ! " His voice became as terrible as
that of the prophet Job. " Root of all our sins !
Abyss of evil ! Tomb of virtue ! Cursed she is and
shall be ! " His thundering words fell on the bowed
heads of the trembling women and bent them to the
Slowly his holy anger passed, and he continued his
" Then God the Son, having seen His Father's plan
spoiled by the sin of Eve the wicked, and beholding the
enemy, Satan, lay hold of the human race which in
the space of a single day had covered the earth,
became stricken with woe and tore His garments and
covered His head with ashes. Then alone He went
toward these followers of Satan, who took Him and
" Seeing Him on the cross His Father was afflicted
and cried out, saying, ' Why dost Thou cause Thyself to
be crucified, My well-beloved Son ? '
" And God the Son answered him, saying, ' This I do
for the human race which I have created. Forgive
them as Thou lovest Me.'
" ' The human race, which entered into alliance with
Satan ? ' replied God the Father, marvelling greatly.
" ' They are the work of My hands. Forgive them
for love of Me,' said God the Son, and God the Father
said, ' So let it be.'
" Thereupon, although disgusted with the human
race, God pardoned us. And that is why, in spite of
all our actions, which stink with the odour of demons,
we shall be pardoned by God and placed high in His
Here my uncle grew even taller, and stretching out
his right hand above the bowed heads he said solemnly,
" On this day of the birth of our Creator, Saviour and
Master, on this day of the birth of humanity, I bless you
and pardon you in accordance with the will of God."
All crossed themselves, hurried forward to kiss the
Holy Hand of my uncle, and went their way cleansed of
As for me, I remained rooted to my place, dazzled.
For me no Bible story surpassed in marvels this one of
my uncle, whose wisdom was greater even than that of
the Saints Matevos and Tatevos.
Armenia : Shamabka
WE had returned to our winter residence at
Shamahka, formerly an Armenian city, later a
principality of Tartarian Khans, independent and
sumptuous until its capture by the Cossacks of Russia.
Black caverns like the eyes of monsters deep-set in
the rocks silently told the terrible stories of the
prisons of the Middle Ages. Here and there were
traces of old castles that had disappeared ; turrets
with their teeth decayed, walls worn away. All this
was smothered in gardens, buried in masses of roses
and vine ; only the song of the poplars remembered
the passing of old happy days. Only their murmur-
ing, and the ceaseless, liquid voice of the clear streams
in empty streets between high white walls, recalled
the glories of King Dandouk and the Queen of Sha-
mahka, and the beauty of houris incarnated in the
sweet bodies of dancers, who had descended from
Paradise itself for love of the Khans.
Now, like an old beggar sitting beside the highway,
Shamahka dreamed of the long-gone days when,
young, beautiful and adored, decked, in all the
jewelled glory of old Armenia, she had been the
laughing queen of the world's romance. Long cara-
vans of camels had come from the homes of all the
winds, bringing the spices of Arabia, the golden orna-
ments and singing lutes of Babylon, the carved ivories
and jades and painted tea-chests of China, the
emeralds and elephants' tusks of India, to lay them
at the feet of the Queen of Shamahka, whose beauty-
surpassed them all.
She was so beautiful, that ancient queen, that
legend itself was dumb, unable to find words worthy
of her hair, her eyes, her little feet. When she walked
on her terraces the sun became pale before her, as
the stars before the moon. The perfume of her
graciousness was sweeter than that of all the flowers
in the world's gardens. Her very name awakened in
the hearts of men a love that devoured them in its
flame as moths are devoured in the lesser fire of
torches. Her courtiers could not look even upon her
floating veils, lest they be blinded. And this great
beauty troubled the wise men of her kingdom, for in
all her lands and in all the neighbouring kingdoms
there was no man worthy to become her husband.
And the queen wept, for her heart was the heart of
a woman, though her beauty was that of the angels
of Paradise, and there was no one in all the known
world to whom she could give the treasures of her
love. The hate of a woman scorned is more terrible
than the hate of all the demons, but the anguish of
a woman who cannot love is greater than the anguish
of all their victims.
While the queen wept, alone in her gardens — and all
her tears became pearls — in unknown lands beyond the
sea King Dandouk, on a throne of ivory and gold,
leaned his chin on his hand and was sad. Before him
the most beautiful dancing girls unveiled themselves in
voluptuous dances, their gestures scattering like drops
of dew the sweetest music of thars and tambourines.
His little negro slaves tumbled on the marble pave-
ments ; serpent charmers made toys of deadly snakes ;
magicians wove powerful spells. All in vain ; the
heart of King Dandouk was ice in his breast ; he sighed
for something and could not say what it was. But
while he walked alone in his garden at twilight, he
heard outside his walls a wandering singer singing of the
Queen of Shamahka ; he heard her name. His heart
of ice was melted by the sound of those syllables. King
Before the sun shone again on his court, heralds had
summoned all his warriors, his huge war-elephants, his
musicians and magicians and readers of the stars. In
the morning he set out to make war on Shamahka. He
came with ten thousand elephants armoured in silver
and gold, ten thousand horsemen armed with spears,
and ten thousand camels bearing food and water for his
armies. He came across the deserts toward Shamahka,
and before him rode seven powerful magicians, who
scattered on every wind a perfumed drug that went
before them like mist.
Everything that breathed that perfume slept. The
roses closed their petals, the birds hid their heads
beneath their wings, the fountains dwindled and were
still. In the bazaars of Shamahka the camels knelt, the
buffaloes lay down in their harness, buyer and sellers
ceased their bargaining and lay asleep among their
goods. In the palace of Shamahka the queen slept on
her throne, while all her courtiers, unable to resist the
spell, lay dreaming in their robes, like bales of brocades
at her feet.
So King Dandouk rode into the city of Shamahka, by
the soldiers that slept at the open gates, and through
the silent bazaars, and up through the palace gardens to
the steps of the great audience hall. He entered, and
looked at the sleeping queen. Through her veils he
saw the crescent moons of her eyebrows, and for a long
time he remained motionless, under the spell of his
great love. But at last he came up the steps of the
throne, and kneeling at the feet of the queen he touched
with his lips the hem of her robe.
The queen awoke, she lifted her lids and looked at
him. In that moment their two souls were united,
never again to part until the sun grew cold.
It was thus that King Dandouk married the Queen
of Shamahka, and they lived together in her city, since
not all the kingdoms of the world could tempt her from
it, and for her sake King Dandouk renounced his throne
beyond the seas. And Shamahka rejoiced in the light
of those twin suns, while in their palace the two eternal
lovers lived in Paradise, which they had reached with-
out passing through the gates of death. For them the
houris descended, and the peris danced in robes of more
than earthly beauty.
Glorious in all Asia Minor, these little dancers
wandered from city to city, kindling all hearts with the
fiery music of their silver ornaments. Little goddesses
with languid eyes in which smouldered the fires of all
human passions, little bodies trembling, colourful,
tender and fierce ! They filled the dreams of my
childhood. In the drowsy silence of our gardens'
noons, when all but I slept in the shadows, I imitated
the undulations of their ethereal bodies, the waving of
their delicate veils. How far I was from imagining
that one day I, too, Would go wandering in the world as
one of those dancers of Shamahka !
Our large white house, built on a little hill, looked
over treetops and surrounding walls to Ker-Galassi,
Mountain of the Virgin. Upon the rock that crowned
it, cruel and sharp against the sky, once died captive a
beautiful Armenian virgin, whose sacrilegious love for a
Mussulman had been discovered by her parents. The
flame which she had not conquered in her heart had
for ever destroyed her honour. Yet, rather than deliver
her to be stoned to death, her parents had chosen
to punish her themselves, thus washing from their
name the shame she had brought upon it. They had
isolated her upon the mountain to die of hunger and
From the windows of our house, through long hours
of dreaming, I gazed at that rock. I brooded upon the
memory of that infatuated virgin, her despairing love,
her unrealized desires, her suffering through freezing
nights when the winds tore her hair and veils and the
fierce cold stars chilled her warm blood meant to glow
beneath a lover's caresses. Her life and death were my
one human love-story.
I resolved that I, too, would love a Mussulman.
Yes, to avenge her I would love even a bandit of the
mountains. But I would not love a coward. My man
would be brave ; he would do a thousand deeds of
prowess to bring me bracelets and heaps of golden
ornaments. His name would be glorious ; maidens
would dream of it ; the bravest would pale at his
approach. And when our love was discovered, he
would never leave me alone upon a mountain to die ;
he would tear down the very mountain to save me !
One night a terrible hurricane shook the walls of
our house. Awakened by the cries of the servants and
the flashing of torches, I heard the cruel screams of the
wind, the shrieking of tormented trees, the crash of
their falling. I felt the floor trembling beneath me,
and my first thought was for the virgin of Ker-Galassi.
* O unhappy heart, what did you do alone upon the
mountain in such a night as this ? Bitterness was more
cruel than the night. Your unworthy lover was not
beside you. In the cold, in the wind, alone, you wept
while your mother and sisters slept on cushions of birds'
feathers. Why was I not near you ? I would have
been your sister. More loving than your own people,
I would have clung to you, comforted you, dried your
tears with my hair, and if anyone had tried to separate
us we would have thrown ourselves, together, from the
same precipice ! '
The voice of my mother brought me back to realities.
She called me to a brazier around which the household
was huddled. My father read aloud to us from the
Bible the beautiful story of Christ.
My mind halted upon Mary Magdalen. I forgot
the virgin of Ker-Galassi ; my desire for love found
another marvel upon which to nourish itself. Ah, to be
Mary of Magdala, a beautiful sinner ! To love a
Mussulman, a Tartarian Khan, a Sheik-ul-Islam, an
Ibue of Arabia ! To have underground halls scented
with Eastern perfumes, gardens filled with birds of
Paradise, peacocks, canopies embroidered in far-away
lands by women with slender yellow hands and slanted
eyes. To be the Magdalen, cursed, calumniated,
injured by those who hate the beautiful, to be stoned
one day publicly, and then to see the Christ Himself
defend me, the Divine Christ Who alone would pardon
the beautiful their delight in beauty, I, too, would
have given up everything for that one Being Who
would have understood, Who would have loved me, the
" Father, why did not Christ marry her ? "
My father stopped, thunderstruck.
" You talk nonsense, my little daughter," he replied
gravely, and continued his reading.
The word angered me. Nonsense ? Had he not
read to us that Mary had abandoned for Him her gar-
dens and her house in Magdala, that with her beautiful
hair she had dried His feet after pouring upon them
perfumes ? She was, then, in love. How could
Christ, Who loved her already, have been able to resist
the desire to press her close to His breast, if one sleep-
less night she had come into His tent to lay her head
tenderly upon His shoulder and to envelop him with
her perfumed hair ? She had not the courage to dare,
that was it. As for me, nothing would have stopped
My father closed the book, saying that Biblical times
have passed, and that humanity has lost its grandeur.
" No one now will crucify himself for an ideal ; each
thinks of nothing but his own well-being." And he
told us of the ardent faith of the first Christians in the
times of Tiberius and of Nero, of the fetes in the
arenas at Rome, of the beautiful Christian women
thrown naked into the jaws of panthers, of the mass-
acres in the catacombs. " We are to-day incapable of
so much heroism."
" That is not so, my father. I myself aspire to die
for some one. In what country arc Christians per-
secuted now r* "
" In none, my daughter, because there are no Chris-
tians. Christ is forgotten in our days."
" Even at Rome ? "
"Even at Rome."
" O father, and I shall never have the happi-
ness of dying in holy ecstasy before millions of
Romans ? "
" Christians are persecuted to-day only in Turkey,"
my mother sighed. " Your grandfather, your grand-
mother, and your uncles were all massacred there on the
same day. Your aunts violated and were sold as
" That was done only to pillage us. Christ counted
for nothing in those massacres," replied my father in a
sudden flare of anger. " If Armenia were not the
richest province in Turkey, these brigands would not
have thought of allowing us to enrich ourselves in order
to murder us and seize our wealth."
But I listened no longer, returning to my own
thoughts. Ah, no ! To be violated and sold, without
being in a circus arena beneath the eyes of young war-
riors longing only to save me — to die as a slave in some
unnoticed corner of a garden ? No, no, neither for
Christ nor for God Himself !
The days, the evenings and the nights passed mono-
tonously. In the mornings, stretched upon a carpet in
the garden, motionless, my eyes closed, my ears lulled
by the chant of the frogs in the lakes of Hadji-Sayalagh,
I wandered through imagined gardens of love. From
time to time I opened my eyes to see that no tarantula
had crawled upon me, that no reptile was balancing
itself upon a branch above my head.
The muezzin chanted the noon-hour. I arose.
The afternoons were long. I wandered through the
house, purposelessly. One day I found my brother
Alikh reposing upon cushions ; the sunshine touched his
white forehead and his heavy black locks. His eyes
were large and filled with dreams. I stopped. How
handsome he was ! He called me, and gently made me
recline beside him. Hesitating, I stretched myself out
" How beautiful you are in your white veils," he
said. " I would marry you, if I were not your
I blushed. " I regret also that you are my brother.
I do indeed desire to have a husband as beautiful as you
are, Alikh." '
" Perhaps he will be even more beautiful," he said
jealously. " And you will learn to love an unknown
blockhead more than your brother."
I tried vainly to protest.
" What will you say to him when he first lifts the
veils from your face ? How will you embrace him ? "
he asked, putting his arms about me.
My heart beat tumultuously. " I do not know,
Alikh. I shall say nothing. I shall take his head like
this, I shall press it against my heart, and I shall weep
with happiness." There were tears in my eyes, and I
tenderly kissed my brother to hide my emotion.
" You know that if we had stayed in the religion of
our ancestors, in the religion of Zoroaster, I would have
been able to marry you," he said.
" And only because long ago our fathers left that
religion, Alikh, now I shall be given to no matter whom,
to some one old and ugly, but never to you."
" My sweet sister, we may love each other as fiancees.
There is no sin in that. Come, lay your head upon my
shoulder, close your eyes, let us not talk any
So for hours at a time we rested in each other's arms,
filled with a vague, sweet emotion. The whole family
knew that we adored each other, that I went every
night to kiss him in his bed, and that he never slept
without receiving that kiss.
As for me, I fell asleep only with the coming of the
last stars ; I lay awake thinking that the day was near
when some young unknown girl would lie beside him,
and a profound sadness flooded my heart. To com-
fort me, he promised that he would never marry until I
was given to another man, although he was twenty
years old and I scarcely fourteen.
My brother had gone to join his comrades under the
olive-trees of the square, to watch the silhouettes of the
young Armenian girls going to the springs. Veiled,
they passed along the road with rapid steps, their long
sleeves falling back to reveal to ardent gazes the bronzed
graceful arms that supported the amphorae.
The grave figure of an old man passed them, a heavy
fur cap on his shaking head, a coat of sheep's wool on his
bent shoulders. A staff assisted his wavering steps.
Was it our God of the Hearth, or some reincarnated
magician of the long ago ?
The youths rose, and with their hands upon their
belts bowed gravely, saluting Age in the person of this
I left the balcony and entered my father's library.
Four rows of bound books repulsed me by their cold
gravity. Near them stood tall chests of silver chiselled
with little sarcophagi which ornamented the corners.
I opened one. Before me were ancient manuscripts
written in all the languages of the Orient. The verses
of great poets, the tales of forgotten minstrels, the
sublime pages of prophets, lay beneath my fingers. A
feeling of admiration and regret seized me, admiration
for my father, who knew how to read these mysterious
writings ; regret for myself, who could not.
' Piously I gazed at the parchments, marked with
cabalistic characters. How could I penetrate the mys-
tery in these writings of past centuries, in these letters
traced by forgotten Magi whose very names bowed to
the earth the people of their times, whose counsels
directed the fate of kingdoms ?
I opened another chest filled with Armenian books.
These were stories by the great Raffi. I looked at one,
at another. The heroines of those stories resembled
me so nearly that I felt that I was reading about
myself. Lost in the contents of that chest, I read until
evening blotted the pages, now smiling, now weeping
with emotion. Closing the book, I pitied profoundly
those ignorant of the happiness given by the poets, and
morning found me again opening the chest that was
for me a treasure richer than any Sindbad ever
It was in that library that I wrote my first letter.
I have kept it. The paper is worn with age, the ink
is faded, only the feeling remains unaltered, like a
precious metal before which time is powerless :
" To my unknown love, greetings. I do not know
thee But thou wilt be beautiful and tender, pale
with love and motionless under my glance. I love
thee. I await thee. Thou art in the world. But
where, in what part of the universe ? Perhaps quite
near, perhaps in the garden divided from mine by one
thin wall. Thy name ? What is thy name ? I love
thee ! I love thee ! "
Our life, apparently so happy, had its shadows. One
of my five brothers, a veritable Prodigal Son from the
pages of the Bible, saddened our hearts. He was
constantly absent, but the whole province spoke of his
tumultuous life at Dgiguit. At home we avoided pro-
nouncing his name, so much were we pained by his
extravagant adventures, which surpassed all imagining.
However, we all loved him for his beautiful tempestu-
ous nature and for his proud manners and carriage,
which made us feel that an ancient bas-relief had taken
flesh and blood for us.
It was he, alone of all the children, to whom my
father had given a European education, following the
ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whom my father had
believed equal to Buddha. Tired by his great learn-
ing, unable any longer to love the little joys of life, my
father completely shared the disgust which Rousseau
felt for civilization, the corrupter of Nature. He had
agreed with Rousseau that we should return to the
primitive state and allow our instincts to develop freely,
since what could be purer, more innocent, than the
naked instincts uncorrupted by thought ? And,
according to Rousseau, if anyone possessed an evil in-
stinct punishment was unnecessary, for he would be
punished directly by the inevitable consequences of his
Therefore, since the most natural state for the ideal
man would be complete freedom, entire liberty for self-
development, and the society of the unself-conscious
animals, my brother had been given all of these. In
order not to influence him with our Asiatic customs,
my father kept him apart from us in a beautiful
pavilion surrounded by its own gardens.
Result : after seventeen years of living, this ardent
nature, true Caucasian in emotion and violence, became
a veritable Bashi-bazouk. He was never without his
weapons : at the slightest rousing of his anger he pur-
sued us with his dagger ; he flogged the servants for
the smallest mistakes, and if he were hungry and
obliged to wait while meals were brought he tore the
cloth, smashed the porcelains and, leaping upon his
horse, furiously lashed it out of sight, to be gone for
days and weeks.
My father, of a very sweet nature and perfectly
disciplined as arc all Orientals, never showed his son
any anger and never punished him, knowing that his
faults were the disastrous though unexpected results
of his education. We saw our father, miserable, walk-
ing to and fro in my mother's room, declaring to her
in agony that all Europeans are bandits and that this
Rousseau, whose writings led them to liberty, is their
chief. My poor mother, ignorant of the death of that
Frenchman, replied through her tears, " May the sun
turn cold to this Rousseau, may the washers of corpses
carry him away, may no grass grow upon his grave ! "
It was Sunday, the day of enforced idleness. An in-
tolerable, illimitable boredom weighed upon our souls.
A day, an eternity, stretched empty before us. We
faced obligatory visits to our elderly, severe aunts,
whom my father called " Our Saints,'' and we, " The
Pyramids." That penitential visit would follow the
Mass, two hours long, which we must endure standing,
d.s. 6j e
our hands crossed on our breasts with an air of piety
which concealed the agony of our superhuman efforts
not to yawn.
Those two hours were my first revelation of eternity.
In vain we counted to one thousand, in vain we repeated
to ourselves the fables we knew by heart. The mono-
tonous plaintive voices of the chanters continued inex-
orably, endlessly. We gazed at the dear little buzzing
flies that flung themselves against the coloured window-
panes ; we watched the stratagems of wicked spiders.
If we could only save the flies from the spiders, what a
noble act it would be ! How much greater and purer
our joy in it than in any Christian effect produced upon
us by the Mass ! And again we began to count to one
I admired very much the clear serenity of my father's
face after those Masses, which left for a long time an
incense in his spirit. Dear father, he assured us that we
also wore a nobler air than ordinarily, believing that he
saw in our bleak faces his own peace.
But to-day was the fete of the Resurrection, and
when we reached the church there were no empty
places. We must remain at the doors, pressed in the
crowd which gathered behind us. This pleased us, for
although we were so short that the mass of silken veils
and robes enclosed us, by tipping back our heads we
could see the blue sky, and with a little fidgeting we
captured glimpses of the dim interior of the church.
The choir was singing the Glory, the mingled voices
and the scent of incense were streaming into the open
air, when suddenly we heard a growl of thunder. What
happiness ! Rain would release us, we would return to
the house, we would not visit the aunts ! We lifted
our eyes toward the clouds — there were no clouds !
The sky was a pure and limpid blue. Astonished, we
had piously bowed our heads again, when a strange
thunder resounded beneath our feet, long and menac-
ing like the bellowing of ferocious beasts in underground
A quiver passed through the crowd. Heads turned,
questioning glances passed from eyes to eyes, and a third
prolonged growl, accompanied by a gentle shaking of
the earth, unleashed our terror. It was the coming of
one of those terrible upheavals of the earth that had
many times reduced to ruins this city so fertile and
joyful upon its volcanic hills beneath the happy
" Hurry away from the walls ! " said my father's
voice, troubled and stern. We were obeying, the open
space before the church was a flutter of red veils, the
clicking of little heels sounded like hail. Suddenly a
terrible shock threw us to the ground.
I struggled to sit up. Around us lay uprooted trees,
quivering as if in death. My eyes turned toward the
church, and a horrible picture was printed on my eye-
balls. The beamed basilica was slowly, softly sinking,
like folds of cloth, upon the kneeling people. The
exalted priest was leading them in prayer for a miracle.
And an immense sigh, smothered and horrible, came
through the open doors as the whole basilica gently
closed down, and the doorposts fell. Of the great
church and all that crowd of worshippers, there
remained only a few columns standing amid ruins.
From all sides the crash of falling walls smothered the
shrieking of human beings and animals, while the under-
ground rumbling of the earth, in convulsions, ran
through the chaos. Now and then, through the dust,
we saw the rosy, hypocritical face of the sun ; then,
after a momentary rest, the earth resumed its agonized
" Pray ! " my mother was saying, taking our hands.
" Pray : the Day of Judgment has come ! " And she
prostrated herself, repeating prayers. My lips, para-
lysed, capable of no words, remained motionless ; my
eyes followed the naked bodies of women fleeing from
the baths, and in the insanity of those moments their
nakedness and their frantic gestures did not seem
remarkable. Two of them were coming toward us,
tottering, when the earth quietly opened beneath their
feet and swallowed them, like the mouth of a monster.
I lost consciousness.
A few hours of nightmare, of delirium. The air
cleared itself of dust and resumed its azure colour. A
gentle wind caressed the leaves of a few trees that still
stood, their broken branches hanging. The sun,
always indifferent, was disappearing in the distance,
and the heap of ruins that had been a city still trembled
from time to time, with the last quiverings of the
No more Shamahka, no more delicious gardens, no
more houses among the golden vines, no more palaces of
the Khans. All was destroyed.
Of our high white house, our walled gardens, our
arbours, nothing remained but a pile of stones. A
broken tree laid its branches upon it as upon a grave,
and from the spot where our gates had been, the water
of our fountain trickled like colourless blood.
Upon the road that came from the desert, a few
camels looked at us kindly through astonished eyes,
We caressed these poor beasts, friends in our misery.
In a few hours they would take us from this horrible
place toward another life by the white and sterile
borders of the Caspian Sea.
Armenia : ^aku
AT the end of the summer we were living on the
cape of Apcheron, in a large house amid Tartarian
gardens, sterile squares of sand surrounded by high
walls. Here a few fig-trees struggled to hold up dusty
leaves whose strength had been sucked from them by
the greedy sun. Half-covered with the hot sand, a
few vine-leaves lay parched and crisp. The vines
themselves were buried deep in the protecting earth ;
to reach a bunch of grapes one must dig away a foot
of sand. The bare stone walls burned the fingers ; the
glistening sand burned the feet, and the shadows of
the fig-trees were not cool. There was refuge only in
the spacious house, behind the balconies protected
from the sun by mats of straw. At night ladders
placed against the wall led us to the roof, where we
slept beneath the stars.
The Caspian Sea, smooth and shining, reflected a
yellow sky. Yellow were the houses, yellow were the
trees. The shores of the sea, covered with salt, lost
themselves in the flat distance like clouds. Those
vague white contours, uncertain in the shadows of the
night, quivering in the heat of noon, expressed an
I remember one morning, clear and limpid as the
bunch of grapes my mother offered me. The sun
reflected itself in the water like the golden wing of an
angel. The fire of the ardent and terrible god filled my
body, my blood was liquid sunshine, my soul was as
light and white as the morning.
" Kiss me, mother," I said to her. " I am so happy !
Oh, tell me how I can live for ever, how I can put my
arms around the whole world and press it to my
heart ! "
" Child," she said, and kissed me tenderly.
My mother was sad, and my father troubled. For
several days we had known that they were talking
together long and confidentially. So we were not at
all surprised when our mother called us all together
for a serious family council. In a few words my father
told us that it was the will of God that we should
completely alter our way of life. In a little while we
would go to our European house in Baku. Forced to
live in that Tartar city which had become Russian,
we must altogether abandon our Asiatic customs and
in the future we must be pupils in Russian schools.
That day our mother began packing away our long,
light, colourful dresses. We must leave them, we
must leave our gardens of sand and the white shores
of the Caspian Sea, and the long days of sun-drunken
idleness. Excited and a little troubled, we discussed
the mysteries of Russian schools, and tried to imagine
Our hearts fell when we first saw that city. It
seemed to us that, still living, we had entered hell.
The ground, damp and black with oil, the black evil-
smelling ponds, the monstrous buildings soaked in
resinous odours, the half-naked men, blackened with
smoke, who toiled like fiends in the glow of immense
furnaces, the horrible noise of hammers and the shrill
screaming of whistles, all that makes a city a kingdom
of convicts, terrified our inmost souls.
" This is the Black City," said our father. The
carriage wheels lurched over unpaved streets black with
oil. With the noise of fiends in the inferno, long
black trains followed each other endlessly beside the
carriage windows. The men who tended them were
grimed by an incessant fine black rain, their naked
arms were smeared with black, and their ragged gar-
ments of skins were soaked with black oil.
The carriage passed through a monstrous forest of
goblin growths — black structures standing above the
wells. The earth was black, and black viscid streams
moved sluggishly across it, emptying into enormous
What joy to learn that there was also a White City,
and that we were to live in it !
The wheels rattled over round cobble-stones. We
were in a street of markets. Under little shelters of
rugs supported by poles the merchants sat cross-legged
on low, wooden divans, beside their platters and
baskets of goods.
We saw again the green waters of the Caspian Sea,
and, on the other hand, the grey walls of the ancient
Tartar Citadel, where for ten centuries only Tartars
have lived. The hill above it was covered with low
houses ; a honeycomb of thick white walls. Here
and there in the little courts, a tree or a rose-bush
struggled to live. This was the Tartar quarter of Baku.
At last, a large house, heavy and imposing — ours.
Here, in the Armenian quarter, the richest part of the
city, all the houses were tall and grave. Three stories
high, they lifted their flat roofs above the walls of the
courts. The tall iron gates opened for our carriage.
We were in our European house.
And here, as in a nightmare, our life was transformed
into a burden. The rooms, large and solemn, were
filled with hideous shapes of chairs, tables and beds.
The mirrors, in heavy gilded frames, hung on walls
bare of tapestries. We sat upright to eat, from a table
higher than our elbows, covered with a plain, severe
white cloth. The mornings no longer filled us with
joy. Hardly had we risen, dressed and eaten, when we
must take our books and go to school.
Dressed in a grey uniform, with our hair woven into
braids that hung down our backs, we felt strangers
even to ourselves. We were surrounded by strange
children, with broad white faces, blue eyes and thin
yellow hair. Our hair, heavy, black and glistening,
drew upon us their first jeers. They pulled our thick
braids and called them " tails of Arabian horses," which
wounded us painfully. Struck by the slender curves of
our oval faces and by the melancholy expression of our
large dark eyes, the kindest among them called us
" Egyptian mummies."
With difficulty we restrained our rage. In turn we
mocked their heavy and dull aspect and their pink
soft flesh, which disgusted us as much as our more
golden colour displeased them. But our retorts were
weapons that turned against us ; for each Armenian
word that escaped our lips we were severely punished
by the teachers, for it was forbidden to speak our
language in a Russian school.
Deprived of luncheon for our crime, we returned
to our house in the evening fainting with hunger.
Consoled a little by the tenderness of our mother and
by our brothers' threats against our tormentors, we
listened to our father.
" In such circumstances," he told us, " do as the
ancient Greeks did when ill-treated by the Romans ;
do not deign to reply."
We adopted this counsel, but our brothers, hardier
and more violent in anger than we, beat their Russian
schoolmates whenever they cried " Salty ! " in mockery
of our ancient custom of dipping the new-born into
salt. When the teachers punished my brothers they
protested, and this brought upon one of them the
Wolf's Card, a dishonourable certificate which the
Russian colleges give rebels ; this made it impossible for
the offender to receive any further official instruction.
With such daily provocation, we soon became
interested in the political talk of our elders. We knew
that we suffered when we spoke our own melodious
language, because Baku was a conquered city. And
very soon we learned the meaning of a new word that
held for us all the terror that the demons had once
inspired ; it was the word " pogrom." When we
heard that word all gaiety fell from our hearts, to be
replaced by a vague horror.
Our Caucasus was then under the rule of Prince
Galitzine, the Viceroy, who had promised us so much
that all the Caucasian peoples had welcomed him under
the name of " The Archangel." He deluged us with
manifestos richly studded with the words " God "
and " Tsar," in which he urged us to be perfect citizens.
But these manifestos, in a manner which we did not
then understand, transformed themselves into pogroms,
large or small, according to the mood of the Arch-
Meanwhile, like a storm beyond the northern
horizon, there was occurring a conflict called the
Russo-Japanese War. Enchanted, we heard that
these hostilities were more and more injuring the
Russians. Every success of the Japanese was applauded ;
their victories became our own triumphs over our
oppressors. All the peoples of the Caucasus were
repeating, with scarcely concealed joy, the news of
their own defeats. No one doubted that the end of
the war would be a catastrophe for Russia, the hated
power in the north which held in bondage a third of
our ancient Armenian kingdom, and loomed behind
both Persia and Turkey, our other oppressors.
We lived upon excitement like a drunkard upon fiery
liquors, until our blood was inflamed and our heads
filled with visions. The Cossacks, mounted on powerful
horses, appeared in the streets. Their fierce, small
eyes gleamed under tall fur bonnets, whips hung at
their wrists. Students were forbidden to meet in
groups of two or three, lest they be plotting. On our
way to school one morning we heard screams, the
clatter of horses' hoofs and the whistling of whips.
We covered our eyes and ran. At night, huddled
together in our beds by the light of candles, we listened
while the servants told us of Cossack raids, and these
stories filled us with terror and mirth.
Thus we heard that there had been found, at the
home of a rich and dissipated spendthrift, two bombs.
He was arrested and led through the streets, escorted
by guards with unsheathed swords, and left in the
dungeons of the fortress to be shot next morning.
Powerful friends reached the car of the Archangel
in time to save his life, and the surprise of the Cossack
commander was great when he learned that the two
bombs, which no one dared touch, were the bowls of
an English masseur engaged to ply his peaceful trade
upon the too-round stomach of the rich man, who
was anxious about his figure. Happily, the Cossacks
learned the difference between medicine and munitions
Even our mirth was feverish. My sisters and I
dampened our pillows with tears of laughter when we
heard of ludicrous invasions of our Armenian weddings,
betrothals, funerals and even baptisms, by severe and
heavily armed officers, who expected to find revolu-
tions even in cradles. But the magic of vodka soothed
their suspicions, and fetes were resumed under a super-
vision that often became the most hilarious of the
" Ah, you may laugh, my young ladies ! " said the
servants, shaking their heads ominously. There was
no laughter in our dreams, filled with vague apprehen-
sions and terrors, and awakening seemed a part of
nightmare when at midnight we sat up in our beds,
aroused by shouts and the pounding of sabre-hilts on
our gates. Then, half-stupefied with sleep and fear,
we ran to our mother in our nightgowns, while the
tramp of heavy boots and the light of torches went
from room to room. The most hidden corners of our
house were searched, even to unclean laundry, kitchen
utensils, beds. Amid the wails of the servants and the
harsh orders of officers, our rooms were reduced to a
chaos of overturned tables, emptied chests, heaps of
rugs and blankets, while hurriedly we covered our-
selves with any garment we could find, in order to pass
the inspection of the searchers. Grumbling, they
went away at last, leaving us trembling, weeping,
divided by fear and anger.
Needless to say, we took all precautions against being
suspected of revolutionary sympathies. We sup-
pressed so completely all use of the words " liberty,"
" revolt " or " the people " that not even among
ourselves, hardly in our own minds, did we utter them.
Those words, found by chance in the most innocent
correspondence, or overheard in the most casual
conversation, cost months in prison.
Yet even among these shadows there remained in my
heart one ray of the sun, and in it bloomed a little
flower, the flower of my first love.
Rahim, son of a baker, a Mussulman, poor, ragged,
but beautiful with his golden skin in the golden sun-
light beneath our walls — it was his eyes that kindled in
my heart its first romance.
I was fourteen, perceiving for the first time the
beauty of neck and arms and shadows of unbound hair
reflected in the mirror. I dreamed of love, of a
gallant lover, handsome and rich, who would give me
the world to hold in my hands and be too richly
rewarded by my smile. I dreamed of a prince, and I
found him in a baker's son.
We passed his father's little shop whenever we left our
gates. It stood against our wall, offering to passers-by
the sight of its large black oven, its mixing bowls and
floury boards, and its stacks of freshly baked loaves.
On the low counter that separated it from the street,
between the piles of bread, Rahim sat in his dress of
black satin. He was slender and strong. Beneath his
bonnet of astrakhan his eyes, a trifle slanted, were like
dark topaz. His skin was golden, and his smile revealed
teeth as white as milky grains of corn.
It was his smile that first made me hate, with violent
hatred, the ugly grey garments I must wear to school.
I wished that he might see me in my beautiful
Armenian robes ; I wished to conceal my face from
him beneath the fluttering red veils that reveal only a
sparkle of eyes and a hint of curving eyebrows. I
hurried past, pretending not to have seen him.
At night, dreaming with open eyes, I said to myself,
" He is beautiful. He is only the son of a Tartar
baker," and in delicious pain I felt myself doomed, so
young, to the tragedy of an unhappy love.
In the morning, with the bread which his father
delivered to us each day, came a small Tartarian cake
that I loved. In the centre of the cake was set a
forest flower. It was Rahim's little gift to me,
Khanoum Gueusal, the Beautiful Lady.
I looked timidly at my mother, but this delicate
attention, far from making her angry, amused her very
much. I laughed also, and every morning the sight of
that little cake and its simple flower made me gay. I
divined all the sighs that were ascending from his shop
to my balcony with the odour of fresh bread and the
heat of the ovens.
In the evenings when his father, after the last
ablutions, wrapped himself in his burnoose and went
to sleep beside his breads, Rahim transformed himself
into a Medjoun lover. Crouched beside a brazier, his
eyes closed, his face against the disk of a tambourine,
he sang softly for entire hours the lamentations of loves
without memory or hope. Those melodies, voluptu-
ous and plaintive, rose to rne through the twilight,
completing the beauty of the deep sky and the melan-
choly of the Caspian Sea furrowed by the beams of the
Leaning against the railing on the balcony I listened,
and my heart became a place of dreams. I saw myself
seized by Cossacks ; a brutal, hairy arm flings me
across a saddle pommel, and with the speed of the wind
I am carried away toward an indefinable horror. But
suddenly I hear screams, shouts ; the horse stumbles
and falls, I hear the dying groans of Cossacks, and
beside me kneels Rahim. Blood pours from a wound
over his heart ; he is dying. " I have saved you,
Khanoum Gueusal," he says, " and I have given only
my life. It is a little thing." I take his beautiful
head in my lap, I press my lips to his forehead, his eye-
lids. " Oh, Rahim, Rahim, I love you ! I have loved
you always, and you never knew, and now you are
dying ! "
Or perhaps he was not wounded. He carried me
away to safety, he knelt and kissed my hands. My life
was his because he had saved it, but he was a Mussul-
man. " No, no, not even for you can I abandon my
religion. All that is left for me is death, for happiness
with you would be sin, and I cannot live without you."
All the sadness of the world overflowed my heart in
the tears that fell from my lashes. Golden and black
in the light of the brazier, the brooding face of Rahim
was like a medallion against the tambourine, and still
the music rose to me, sobbing of unutterable longings
and the infinite wastes of human fate.
Meanwhile the politics of Prince Galitzine went
their way. He issued an order to confiscate the wealth
of our churches. The Cossacks executed it immedi-
ately. Mounted on their horses, they rode even into
the sanctuaries to tear from the priests the sacred
relics that they refused to give up.
The whole population, Armenian, Mussulman, even
heathen, revolted against this desecration. The clergy,
no matter of what religion, are revered by all the
peoples of Asia. Their resentment infuriated the
Cossacks, who increased their ruthlessness. But that
did not prevent the miners from striking, nor the
students from making demonstrations and holding
meetings. A social earthquake rumbled beneath our
feet. Every one plunged into politics. Even my
little brother, eight years old, was " playing Cossack "
from morning to night. Riding on my father's cane,
he charged upon the throng of Socialists (a dozen
straw chairs), lashing them with his whip and singing
to the tune of the Marseillaise a song of his own com-
position, " God save the Tsar ! Liberty, liberty,
liberty and the Tsar ! "
My father, catching him at this play, which too
painfully reminded us of the reality, placed the cul-
prit in a corner with his nose to the wall, a punish-
ment which the little rebel endured bravely ; it did
not at all hinder him from resuming the game. And
my father, his head bowed and his hands crossed,
walked gravely up and down, saying, " We are on the
eve of grave trouble, grave trouble."
One day our servants, returning from market,
brought strange news. The Russians were buying
great quantities of grain and rice in order to feed their
households during the massacres of Armenians by the
Tartars. Massacres ? We were incredulous, imagin-
ing that such things happened only in Turkey. My
father disdained to listen to such rumours, knowing
the friendliness existing between the Tartars and the
Armenians of the Caucasus. He feared the bloody
disaster of revolution, but it was absurd, preposterous,
to believe that the Tartars would attack the Armenians.
" In such times, one hears anything and everything.
Gusts of wind, blowing in all directions, precede the
My mother, my sisters and I were in the bath. In
the little room whose wooden walls dripped with
moisture, we lounged on wooden benches against the
wall. Servants, barefooted and wrapped in white
cloths, fed with large blocks of wood the huge Russian
stove that filled three-quarters of the room, while
others emptied over red-hot stones jars of cold water
that instantly became steam. The hissing noises, the
wide mouth of the stove, blazing like that of a dragon,
the suffocating vapour and the heat made our bathing
seem like a descent into Satan's realm. We lay gasp-
ing, wiping the streams of perspiration from our bodies
with wet hands, and longing for the moment when,
refreshed and cool in clean linens, we would lounge on
the balcony in the sweet garden air, eating fruits and
Suddenly we heard a sharp, crackling sound. We sat
up, startled. " What have you done ? " my mother
said sharply to the servants. But they were standing
motionless, as surprised as we. The sound came again,
and again. Then a pattering of them, like a hail-
" The massacre ! " cried my mother, with white
lips. The servants ran, their screams trailing behind
D.S. 79 F
them. In an instant we were flinging on our garments,
not even stopping to dry our bodies. A profound
indignation drowned in me all other feeling.
" Yes, yes," I thought. " Like miserable beasts we
shall be butchered by the daggers of these villains,
armed against a peaceful people that has never harmed
them. And my five brothers, beautiful as young gods,
will die like sheep, unable to defend themselves ; they
so handsome, so strong, so full of life and courage."
The house was filled with lamentations and the
clatter of running feet. The high iron gates of the
court had been barricaded. My brothers, with a
few menservants, were waiting behind them. The
crackling we heard was the rattle of bullets against the
iron. Now and then, near or far away, we heard
The Christian resignation of my father, who, on his
knees, was praying, roused my indignation to fury.
" Pray, father. As for me, in the name of God and
His Son, one of these villains will know the sweetness
of my teeth in his throat."
With rapid steps I went through the house. It bore
already the aspect of a deserted place through which
terror has passed. A servant, crouched against the
wall, caught at my skirts, idiotic with fear. Humanity,
what a wretched thing it is ! I could have set my heel
on the face that shamelessly revealed such abasement.
I went on. But there was nowhere to go.
Waiting was more terrible than death would have
been. From time to time a fusillade of shots struck
our gates, our walls. Tinkling falls of glass were
heard ; the windows of the upper floors were being
shattered by bullets. We heard outbursts of shouting
in the streets, the crash of breaking things and sudden
stampedes of many feet. In this way the day passed,
while we felt the slow approach of the moment when,
the first fury of killing abated, hundreds of Tartars,
encouraged by the Russians, would make a concerted
attack upon us and our wealth.
Night came. They would do it in the darkness.
To die in the darkness seemed infinitely terrible to me,
who so loved the sun. I thought of Rahim. It was
his people, the Tartars, who besieged us. All my
anger dissolving into terror at last, I saw myself at his
feet, begging him to obtain from them mercy for my
family, in the name of Mohammed. Yes, I would give
myself to him, I would give myself to a Mussulman for
my whole life, only, only to be saved from death in the
A kindly stupor at last came over me. I spent the
night neither awake nor asleep, huddled beside my
mother, my poor mother who tried to hold in her
arms all her daughters at once, not knowing which
of us she would, at the last, defend with her own
Morning. My little brother, forlorn and miserable
in the midst of this terror which he did not under-
stand, began to cry that he was hungry. It was then
that we realized that there was not enough food in the
house to feed us all. Betrayed by my father's too small
knowledge of humanity, we had not provided for a
siege, as the Russians had done. Scattering shots and
screams, and the smoke of burning buildings rising
here and there in the morning sunshine, told us that
to venture beyond our barricaded gates meant death.
My brothers, exhausted by the night of watching,
slept on the stones in the court, their hands still
clutching their guns. They must have food.
We women did not eat. We gave all that we had
to my brothers. During that day we began to learn
what hunger is. All around us the killing was still
going on. Late that afternoon the house next ours
was raided and all the household was killed. I saw one
of the Armenian maidservants pursued across the flat
roof by a drunken Tartar with a bloody knife. When
I looked again he was throwing her body from the
roof to the courtyard, where smoke and laughter
told me that they were burning the furniture of the
Since our house had not been attacked, and the
massacre had not stopped, we thought that the
Tartars intended to starve us. My brothers threat-
ened to rush into the street, to die after killing as
many Tartars as they could. My baby brother cried
all day long.
" O God ! what sin have I committed against
Thee, that I must suffer so ? " my mother said, trying
to hush him in her arms.
At nightfall I heard a tambourine jingling beneath
our walls. It seemed to me like a memory of days so
long past that I could only faintly remember them.
It was Rahim, singing again the lamentations of love.
I looked down from my balcony and saw him dimly in
the shadows. His father was not there, the brazier
was unlighted, the shop closed. I could not see his
face against the disk of the tambourine ; I saw nothing
but the shadows and the moonlit half of the deserted
street, where the body of some one killed two days
before still lay. But I felt that his eyes were fixed on
my balcony, and as a sign to him I put one hand from
the darkness into the moonlight.
Then I saw him move into the light. He looked
this way and that, and stealthily opened his burnoose
to show me, hidden beneath it, a loaf of bread. He
made a sign with his hand and disappeared again close
to the wall.
I understood. At the risk of his life he was sending
us food. He, a Tartar, whose people were killing
mine ! I wept.
The servants let down a rope and drew up baskets of
bread and meat, while I — I promised myself never to
love anyone but Rahim. Yes, if at that moment I, an
Armenian and a Christian, could have married that son
of a Tartar baker, I would have done it. I would have
become the wife of a Mussulman and served him
humbly all my life, thinking it not too much to give in
return for that one beautiful act.
It was certainly to Rahim that we owed our lives, for
the impatience of my starving brothers would surely
have opened the iron gates to welcome a little earlier
the death we awaited.
It was the second night. My mother, my sisters and
I were awake at midnight, huddled together around a
brazier in a little room at the head of the stairs. My
little brother, enjoying the delight of not being put
to bed, was playing with a box of paper soldiers,
which he marched and counter-marched across his
rug. Suddenly we heard running feet on the stairs,
and one of our servants screamed, " The Tartars !
The Tartars ! " At the same moment we heard
the creaking of the gates, and heavy boots in the
In our overwhelming terror a thought, a word, was
impossible. Like a madness, a desire to run, only to
run, no matter where, since death was everywhere,
seized us all. My mother, grasping Heguine and
Zelah by the hands, fled blindly toward the stairway.
Passing my little brother, I clutched him. But he,
understanding nothing and enraged by being inter-
rupted at his play, took hold of a heavy table with both
hands, kicking and screaming.
" Come, come ! " I said, tugging at him. He hung
on with the strength of rage, crying, " I won't leave
my soldiers ! I won't leave my soldiers ! " To satisfy
him, I gathered up a handful of the soldiers, but he
still hung on to the table. " Put them all in their box,
all ! " he insisted. " I will not go without all my
I went down on my knees and began to gather up
his soldiers, throwing them into the box. The door
opened, and the room seemed filled with Tartars —
Tartars with shaved heads and unsheathed knives.
My brother screamed. I could not see him, but
thought he had been pinned to the table by their
knives. I heard a voice saying, in Armenian, " Do not
be afraid, sister ; we are Armenians. We have come
to save you."
^ " Quick, quick ! " said another voice. " Don't lose
time here. Where are the others ? "
My brothers had opened the gates to a handful of
brave Armenians disguised as Tartars, who had come
to rescue us. In a stupor I followed them, and I
remember only that we went stealthily through dark
ways, hiding sometimes in deeper shadows on the
crooked streets, and I remember a red glow of a bon-
fire, with dancing figures outlined against it, like
silhouettes of fiends.
We reached a large empty house in the Russian
quarter of the city. It belonged to a rich Russian,
who had offered it as a shelter for the refugees. The
floors of the large bare rooms were a mass of huddled
Armenians, who had lost everything, and who sat
silently, with blank, staring eyes. Here and there
mothers were trying to comfort their sobbing children.
From the brave men who had rescued us we learned
that Prince Galitzine had had the happy thought of
organizing a little series of massacres between the
Mussulmans and the Christians, in order to divide
them and prevent a general rising of all the Caucasian
peoples against his government. The entire absence
of police or Cossacks in the streets went to prove the
truth of this genial rumour.
We had brought nothing with us ; we had thought
only of saving our lives. This house, inhabited by
misery, gave us shelter, but no food nor drink. The
markets were closed, every house in Baku was barri-
caded ; each inhabitant was living like a mouse in its
hole. The city was cut off from the world ; no
peasants were bringing in food, no messages or trains
were going out. The little food and water that
foraging bands of armed men could find and bring
back to us was divided among the children and the
The house was often under Tartar fire, but none of
the murdering bands dared attack us, in numbers as we
were, and armed. Not all Armenians are so faithful to
the teachings of Jesus that they submit meekly to their
butchers ; my people, the most industrious, intelligent
and cultured people in our despoiled ancient kingdom
of Armenia, are as strong as any, and as brave. When
they do not fight to defend themselves, it is their living
religion, not cowardice, that ties their hands. Now,
armed and resolute, our men were prepared to defend
our place of refuge.
On the edge of the flat roof there was a little cham-
ber, and here, in turn, each of us stayed for two hours,
watching for the approach of a Tartar band. A whistle
was to be the signal of danger. One night, sitting there
in the darkness, I saw two shadows slipping along the
opposite wall. Uncertain whether they were Ar-
menians or Tartars, I held the whistle to my lips,
hesitating to blow it.
To my astonishment, the shutters of a shop opened
without a sound, and the two shadow}' - persons
vanished behind them. Ten minutes passed, when
for an instant the wind opened the shutters, and I saw
by the light of a candle four men pillaging the shop,
which belonged to a rich Armenian. I blew the
whistle with all my breath, and the thieves fled like
Relieved of the watch, I found an empty corner of
one of the lower rooms, and slept. A revolver shot
awakened me. Running to the window, I saw against
the opposite wall a young man sinking gently, as
though quietly sitting down. In a moment several of
our men crossed the street to examine the body. It
was that of a young Georgian Armenian, sent by his
avaricious mother to pillage the shop from which I had
frightened the Tartars. She paid dearly for her greed,
that horrible mother. For three days and nights she
howled above the body of her son like a wolf above her
slain cub, beating her breast and shrieking, " It was I,
it was I who killed him ! "
She was still screaming when on the fifth day the
Cossacks again appeared in the city. Riding down the
streets on their horses, their revolvers held ready to
fire, they at once, without a shot, imposed peace and
We returned to our house expecting to find it in
ruins. As though by a miracle it had not been burned,
it had not even been entered. All was as we had left
it. Even the cushions still bore the imprint of our
bodies, and my little brother's paper soldiers lay waiting
for him. Our servants, gathering the gossip of the
bazaars, explained this miracle, for which, however, we
did not cease to thank God. Some one among the
Tartars had spread the tale that our house was filled
with bombs from cellar to roof-top. For that reason
no one had dared approach it.
A few weeks passed. Rumours of new massacres
began to circulate through the city. This time no
one was incredulous ; each household prepared for
defence. Again the police and the Cossacks dis-
appeared ; again the barbarian Tartars, insane with
vodka and fully armed, fell upon the Armenian quar-
ters. Again we heard the shots rattling against our
gates, and again we waited through hours of anguish
that were more than could be borne, and ended in a
stupor of mind and senses. The garden of our house
was lighted through the night by the red glare of
burning houses, and we heard the shrieks of whole
households barricaded in the flames.
At the end of the fourth day the Cossacks re-
appeared, bringing order and peace. Tens of thou-
sands of dead lay in the streets and covered the Chris-
tian and Mussulman cemeteries. The odour of the
corpses smothered the city. Everywhere women with
mad eyes were seeking their children, and husbands
were moving the heaps of rotting flesh.
It was announced that a Mass for the dead would be
celebrated in the great square, and that the Governor
of Baku, Prince Nakachidze, would himself honour our
dead with his glorious presence.
The great square was packed with human bodies as
closely as a pomegranate with seeds. The black and
violet veils of the women, the coloured turbans and tall
fur caps of the men, were like a mosaic laid before the
open doors of the church. Because we had arrived a
little late, and also because we disliked the pressure of
crowds, we stood on the threshold of a little shop at
one side of the square.
Preceded by an escort of Cossacks, haughty in their
high astrakhan bonnets, their coloured sashes and wide
blue trousers and glistening boots, Prince Nakachidze
arrived with his suite. Hardly had he taken his place
before the church, hardly had the choir begun the
Mass, when a horrible explosion, followed instantly by
many more, drowned the first notes of the Miserere. A
groan burst from the great throat of the crowd.
A dozen bombs had fallen upon the Prince and his
suite ; they were dead. And hardly had we asked
what was happening, when the Cossacks were let loose.
All those blond, robust horsemen hurled themselves
upon us, their purple faces emitting their traditional
piercing whistle, their whips hissing in the air. Like
demons from hell their great horses, with quivering
nostrils and gleaming teeth, charged neighing upon the
packed masses of human flesh.
The crowd was like a carpet rolling back beneath the
hoofs that stamped upon it. Pressed against the
grating of the shop-front, unable to move, I saw a huge
horse strike down the man beside me, tearing at his
flesh with his teeth. The Cossack's face, congested
with blood, glistening with sweat, set in a horrible
grin, was imprinted on my vision. The horse reare
back on his haunches, wheeling toward the crowd, and
sprinkled me with bloody foam from his jaws.
In a few instants the square was emptied, save for the
multitudes of corpses that lay upon it, heaps of rags
slowly exuding blood.
That night the whole city rose in a fury no Cossack
could stamp out. The leaders of Tartars and Ar-
menians met and swore upon the Bible and the Koran
to fight together loyally against the infamous Prince
Galitzine. Beneath the unconquerable turmoil of
rebellion there was a feast of love ; in the streets
Christians and Mussulmans embraced each other be-
neath the very eyes of the Cossacks. The government
was helpless before that uprising of two hundred
thousand people against its little band of professional
A new governor arrived, to replace the Archangel
and subdue the riots. He did not subdue them ; they
ceased. And at once a general strike, supported by the
entire population, peacefully took the place of war. It
was more terrible. For two months the oil-wells were
idle, no trains ran, there was no water, no light. We
lived like people in a besieged city desperately holding
out against famine ; we divided carefully each day our
little store of food, rigorously rationed by my father,
who, as a leader of the Armenians, was supporting the
strike that beggared us.
Yet not all our hours were tragic, nor even sad.
The human spirit is a fountain ; no weight can wholly
suppress it. Though Rahim could no longer send me
the 6mall cake I loved, his little offering of a flower
appeared each morning on the small loaf of bread his
father could supply us. In the evenings his tam-
bourine still told of hopeless loves, and I — I will
confess it — dreamed that some day I might speak to
him. We had our happy hours in the gardens, and
friends came and went as always.
One morning we were expecting some guests whom
my mother had invited to drink coffee with us. The
table was already prepared, with all the luxury possible.
My sisters and I, dressed in our prettiest gowns, were
teasing my mother, who was still in her neglige, when
we heard in the street a sound of singing. It was the
Russian hymn, " God keep for us our Tsar."
Hastily veiling ourselves, we went out on the bal-
cony, and saw a great procession coming down the
street. A beautiful portrait of the Tsar, painted on
silk and upheld on golden poles, led the way, followed
by many silken banners, all carried by Russians, their
heads bare and their bonnets in their hands. Behind
them came a great crowd of Russians and Tartars,
What was our surprise to see the banners and the
portrait of the Tsar stop before our house, against the
opposite wall, while the men who carried them raised
still louder their hymn to God. The crowd became a
sea of heads beneath us ; many of the men had lost
their bonnets, and we easily distinguished the shaved
heads of the Tartars from the long blond locks of the
Russians. The hymn ended in a sudden howl, more
terrifying than that of wolves. " Down with the
Armenians ! Death to the dogs ! Death to the
unbelievers ! " Already the gates had given way, and
the mob poured into our court.
In the hallway we were met by a manservant.
" The Tsar has given them a Constitution ! " he said.
His stiff lips fascinated me. " Every one is free to do
as he likes. That is why — that is why the Cossacks
are burning the quarter. Every Armenian is to be
The Cossacks hated us. Among all the Caucasian
peoples we were the only cultured Asiatics, and our
culture humiliated these barbarians, who could not
write their names.
My mother, shaking as though palsied by cold,
tried to cover my little brother with her skirts. My
father, standing before us, repeated in a firm voice a
prayer to God. Outside the hymn was still rising,
half lost in the shouts of the mob. My heart seemed
a lump of ice and I clenched my teeth, which chat-
tered. The mob was sweeping up the stairs and
filling our rooms, with a sound of smashing doors,
shouts and trampling. Round pink faces of Russians
and yellow faces of Tartars swam before my eyes. I
smclled vodka and sweat and unwashed bodies.
Without stopping to kill us, each began to seize
whatever he could. Chairs, arm-chairs, little tables,
curtains, mirrors, leapt into the air and passed from
hand to hand over the heads of the crowd. Furniture
too heavy to lift was being smashed. A flaming torch
appeared, disappeared. It had set fire to a heap of
splintered wood. Already the house began to burn,
but the pillaging continued in the smoke. A drunken
Tartar struggled with a Russian for a tapestry that
was already blazing.
My father finished his prayer and told us to follow
him. But we could not get through the crowd ;
hundreds upon hundreds of men jammed the rooms
and the stairways. The air was filled with thick
smoke. From the upper storeis men were escaping
by jumping from balcony to balcony, and sliding down
the columns like monkeys. At intervals we still heard
the song, " God keep for us our Tsar," rising from the
street, mixed with cries, " Death to the Armenians !
Death to the dogs ! "
The mob, terrified by the fire, carried us with it
down the stairway into the court. We were torn
apart by the crush of bodies. I fought desperately.
Somehow we got through into an open space before
the gates. Suddenly I heard curious whistling sounds,
like the passing of insects with whirring wings. My
father tottered, and slowly sank back on me. I put
my shoulder under his armpit, and held him upright.
Wishing to screen him from the bullets, and having
nothing, I covered him with my veil.
A few steps away the Cossacks, leaning back in their
saddles, were smoking their pipes and watching the
scene. I took the hern of the captain's coat between
my fingers and said to him, " Brother, in the name of
Christ, I beg you, save my father."
He spurred his horse and replied harshly, " To dogs
the death of dogs."
I could say no more; my throat contracted. My
father was sinking ; I could not hold him up. I
knelt, covering his face with kisses and tears. O my
father, my father ! He had said to me always, " My
little daughter, you must not judge the good Russians
by the deeds of the Cossacks. The true Russians are
generous and kind. The Cossacks are a mongrel
Tartar people, barbarians from the steppes of Siberia,
and that is not their fault. One must not judge them
too harshly, either ; they do not know what they do."
My brothers lifted my father and carried him away.
Weeping, not seeing where we went or hearing the
sounds around us, we followed, supporting our mother.
In the poor little house of a seller of rugs we were given
My father's wound would not have killed him. But
he was unable to survive all these horrors and his
complete ruin, which had fallen upon him in those few
hours. Not only our house, but all our wells, were
burned. The whole city was in flames, and even the
waves of the Caspian Sea, covered with oil from the
burning wells, spat fire like the jaws of dragons.
It was thus that the Cossacks celebrated the Consti-
tution which the Tsar gave the peoples of Russia after
his defeat at Port Arthur.
In a bare small room, on a bed of rags, my father lay
" Forgive me," he said to my mother. " I did not
mean to abandon you thus."
My mother, unwilling to trouble him with her grief,
silently kissed his hand. Her heart was so full of tears
that she dared not utter a word which might make them
Overwhelmed by a lethargy which weighed down
my limbs and eyelids like the fumes of opium, I crouched
against the wall. I felt nothing. My little brother
sat beside me. He did not understand the calamities
that had befallen us, but from time to time a large tear
rolled from his wondering eyes, and he clenched his
teeth on a sob that shook his chest. My sisters wept
silently, smothering their sobs with folds of their veils.
My mother leaned above my dying father, motionless
as a statue, only the long folds of her veils quivered
without ceasing, like the poplars when there is no wind.
A long gasping sigh was my father's last breath. My
mother did not stir. " Gone ! gone ! " she whispered.
Then, after a long silence, she swayed forward and lay
with her forehead pressed to his hand. She said, " I
did not know that I loved him so ; I did not know."
It was the first time we had heard her speak of
IN the terror that still held the city we could not
even decently mourn our dead. My father was
buried hurriedly ; his body, guarded by an escort of
police, was carried through the streets accompanied by
a few brave men who made their way past scattered
corpses, beneath the black smoke from the burning
wells. My little mother, homeless and a widow,
gathered us around her to consider what should be
done. Some decision as to our fate must be made at
" As for you, my little daughter," she said, embrac-
ing me tenderly, " you are to be married to-morrow."
This information surprised me very much. But as
I learned that, even in the wreckage of our fortunes, a
respected maker of marriages had found for me a hus-
band in a young Persian, handsome, rich, and of good
family, I could not help being pleased.
" O my mother," I said, clasping her in my arms.
" how can I bear to leave you ? " My tears were
sincere, but beneath the grief which was like a load of
ashes on my heart, I felt life becoming faintly warm
again. To-morrow I would escape from this nightmare
of death and fear ; I would be going toward the sun-
shine again. I would be a bride, amid the roses and
fountains of Persian gardens. This marriage was a great
good fortune, and my mother was happy that our
calamities had not destroyed her hopes of finding me a
good husband. Even in our poverty, our name was
d.s. 95 G
so honourable that the noblest families of Persia would
receive me as a daughter.
" Be obedient, my dear daughter, love your husband
and honour his people. Do not forget daily to thank
God Who remembered us in our sorrow, and His
blessing will be sunshine and dew upon you all the days
of your life," she said, putting aside her violet mourning
veils to kiss me for the last time.
We were so poor that even her veils had been given
her, and my oldest married sister had dressed me in
her own garments. She was to accompany me to the
church ; my mother, being in mourning, could not go,
and in those days of terror there could be no marriage
festivities. I embraced my mother and sisters, wrapped
a dark cloak around me, and with hurried steps
followed my oldest sister.
It was evening. The city was in darkness, lighted
only by the moon and the red glow from smouldering
fires. A few agents of the police marched beside us,
brusque and impatient because of the late hour. The
district was under martial law ; the streets were
deserted. A few vagabond boys followed us, uncertain
whether we were being taken to the prisons. They
followed us across the square and into the church.
In the light of the candles upon the altar I saw three
Persians, unknown to me. My heart beat painfully ;
I glanced at them, seeking the first sight of my hus-
band. He was a young man, dark-eyed and with a
brow like marble ; this was all I saw before modestly
lowering my eyes and kneeling before the priest, who
at once hurriedly began reading the marriage cere-
mony. He was obliged to make haste, so that we could
catch the boat that was to take us to Persia.
I found myself for the first time on a boat, leaving
behind me the land of my birth, going out into the
darkness that lay upon the Caspian Sea. In a tiny
cabin, where the aunt of my husband had led me, I
lay in a berth and felt the ship swaying and dipping.
Somewhere in it there was a beat like that of a labour-
ing heart, and from time to time a long shudder passed
through the timbers. The boat, too, was alone in
the darkness, and did not know to what destination it
was going, nor what awaited it there.
I thought of my husband, whose eyes were so dark
and full of light beneath his white brow, and I felt in
his youth a sympathy for mine. Oh, I would love him !
I would love him ardently and tenderly, and he would
love me, and we would be happy. But suddenly I
found that I was weeping, softly, so that my new aunt
would not hear me, and my whole heart seemed to melt
and flow back toward my mother and my sisters, and
all the happy days that were already so far away.
In the morning, on the deck of the little boat, I
walked beside my new aunt, a stern old woman who
had made the journey as a patriarchal duty, and who
spoke very little. Carefully concealed in my veils, I
looked at the other passengers : Armenian merchants,
fierce, hardy-looking men ; Greeks, swarthy and talka-
tive ; Persians with soft eyes and melancholy smiles.
Timid beneath their glances, I leaned on the rail and
looked at the waters, in which the great paddle-wheels
cut deep green trenches. I saw my husband approach-
ing, his venerable uncle at his side. In passing, he
smiled, and in a clear low voice said to me, " Good
morning, Khanoum." I replied to him, " Good
morning, Khan." Under the eyes of his uncle and his
aunt, who respectively guarded us, it was impossible
to say more, but I treasured the sound of his voice in
my heart, which repeated it again and again.
Each morning I waited eagerly on the deck, hoping
that we would meet, and each morning he passed me
and uttered that greeting, to which I responded
modestly. In the afternoon of the third day we arrived
at that spot in the sea where its green waters mingle
with the yellow waters of the Murghab river.
A violent storm was lashing the terrified waves with
whips of rain. The sea rose in mountains of water.
The boat tossed and rolled, as though angrily trying
to shake us from its back. We watched anxiously the
movements of little boats setting out to fetch us in
from the sea.
Suspended in mid-air, between the big boat and the
little, I felt that all the world had become battling
air and water. By a miracle, at last, my feet touched
solidity, unsteady though it was. Chilled and drenched
by spray, I huddled beside my aunt, and watched the
Tartar boatman who made our little craft glide skil-
fully from the summit of one liquid mountain to
the next, with the words, " Ya Allah ! " This robust
Mongolian, high-cheeked, with slanting eyes and shaved
head surmounted by a little cap of black felt, inspired
in me admiration and awe. The little boat moved
beneath his booted feet as though it were controlled
by his will, and the sturdy torso beneath the blue blouse
seemed a living part of the boat ; he was a centaur of
On the quays of Enzeli, below the tall white and blue
tower of the Shah's palace, crowds watched our
approach. Beyond the quaint palace and the bazaars
were beautiful forests that lay like green robes slipping
from the snowy breasts of the mountains. The sky
was a clear and intense blue ; the bright air was
a-flutter with wings of land-birds and sea-birds, and
a breath of gardens came from the green-fringed shore.
Before us lay the clear blue waters of Lake Murghab,
shimmering silk brocaded with the green velvet of
many little islands. It seemed to me that in reaching
Persia I had come to Paradise.
The crowds welcomed us with cries of thanks to
God and to Allah for our escape from death. They
showed us gardens and houses demolished that very
morning by two great dragons — for thus they name the
whirling pillars of water that come from the Caspian
Sea to march over the land until they meet a resistance
that overpowers them. Below Enzeli these two dra-
gons had drowned and carried away whole villages.
Without delay we again embarked in a narrow little
boat drawn by Assyrians, who were to take us to Pir-
Bazaar. These half-naked men, whose bronze bodies
glistened with sweat, and whose bare feet strained
against the boards, pulled on a rope that drew the boat
onward against the strength of the current. We passed
by the green islands, where we saw, drowned among
trees, the wooden towers of Mongolian houses, and the
square white Russian houses with red-tiled roofs.
Little boats were passing from island to island to the
the shore, flamingos and herons flapped above our
heads, and on the banks we saw the little humped
Persian buffaloes grazing.
At Pir-Bazaar a hundred persons received us, firing
their rifles in welcome. As I set my feet on the shore
the traditional oilcring of a lamb, killed at my feet,
shook my heart. The plaintive bleat was still in my
ears, when a horrified murmur from the crowd suc-
ceeded it. The blood of the lamb refused to run
toward me. Disastrous omen ! Happiness would
elude me all my life.
My heart beat violently ; through my veils I sent a
pleading glance toward my husband, and it seemed to
me that his untroubled air was meant to comfort me.
Two carriages, each drawn by four Arabian horses
ornamented with coral and blue beads, were waiting
for us. I entered the second, with the aunt. We set
out on a fine straight road, paved with blocks of stone.
The jolting of the carriage, the stern manner of the
aunt, and the swarming fears, doubts and hopes which
danced like witches in my mind, to the sound of the
lamb's bleat, prevented my observing anything of the
country through which we passed. But when we
entered the gates of Resht my eyes were dazzled by
flowers, fruits, coloured turbans, naked children, camels
in gorgeous trappings, crowds of merchants, beggars,
dervishes, nobles, brilliant yellows, blues, greens,
beneath the burning light of the sun.
Our carriage stopped with a jerk. The carriage in
which my husband rode had halted before us in a lane
too narrow for carriages to pass. The aunt dis-
mounted, I followed trembling, and we made our way
on foot over an uneven pavement, accompanied by the
enraged barking of innumerable dogs. High iron gates
ended the lane. The thought that those stern tall
doors would close me in forever made me shudder. I
approached them with the emotion of a convict before
the door of his cell.
They opened, and we walked through a stone passage
and another gateway into a large garden. I saw before
me a square white house, the second floor surrounded
by colonnades. Below these, on the threshold, stood
my new mother in her veils, and my new father, Assa-
tour-Khan, grave and majestic.
Again a poor lamb was killed at my feet. Again the
blood refused to flow towards me, but remained in a
pool that stained red the quivering woolly body. My
new mother made an heroic effort to conceal her
horror of me and her anguish at this omen of misery
for her son. My husband, taking her arm gently, tried
to console her. " These are the old beliefs of Abraham
and Isaac, my mother ; we are far from them now."
With a noble and generous manner, my new father
said to me : " May your steps be light and your feet
tread ways of righteousness in my house." Touched
almost to tears by his gentleness, which revived my
courage, I kissed the hand he offered me.
But there was no time to regain my self-control, for
I found myself in a great State chamber, an immense
room dimly lighted by stained-glass windows, richly
draped with tapestries, and filled with a throng of
strangers. Immediately I was taken into the arms of
an old man who trembled from head to ankles while he
poured upon my head a flood of good wishes. As he
had no teeth, I could not comprehend what he was
saying ; only two phrases reached me : " May you
grow old upon the same cushions with your master,"
and, " Kiss the hands of this patriarchal family."
The gaze of three ancient ladies who were crouched
in a row upon a divan eloquently told me where
I should commence this rite. I approached them
and, closing my eyes to shut out the sight of their
withered hands and blue nails, like those of corpses, I
kissed the edge of their sleeves. Then quickly I turned
toward the others. It seemed to me cruel that I must
kiss so many cold, aged hands, from which my lips
recoiled as from the touch of death. I looked des-
pairingly at them all, and, gathering all my resolution,
I stopped before an old man who stood beside my new
father. His respectable appearance, his long, well-
combed, white beard, and the odour of musk that
surrounded him, inspired in me a little confidence.
Taking his hand, I kissed it with sincere respect.
A few muffled laughs struck me like blows. My
new mother said coldly, " He is our Hadji, my daugh-
ter, an old Hadji of Jerusalem." Assatour-Khan
smiled broadly, and clapping the old man on the
shoulder, " You are the lucky one ! " he said ; " you see
what honours we give to faithful servants."
The old man, overwhelmed with confusion, took his
hand hastily from my lips and did not reply. Some
one said in my ear, " He is our watchman, an old beggar
from the sacred places."
My anger and misery at being ridiculed were too
much to bear. I covered my face with my veils to
hide my tears, and without more words I was led into
my room to be left alone.
As I was in mourning, forty days must pass before
I would be brought for the first time into the presence
of the young Persian who was now my master. These
forty days were devoted to teaching me the duties of a
young wife. For teachers I was surrounded by a
number of elderly aunts and old uncles, with their
parents and grandparents. Besides these, there were
the wives of our neighbours, and most dreadful of all,
the three ancient ladies, more than a hundred years old,
who remained during the whole forty days motionless
upon the divan in the hall of State. This great room,
with its tall glazed jars ranged along walls draped with
rich tapestries, its large immaculate divans covered with
prim cushions, its little tables of ebony and mother-
of-pearl, all stiff with propriety beneath the stains of
red and blue light that fell from the coloured windows
near the ceiling, became a veritable torture-chamber to
me. There, standing before the three ancient ladies,
I listened for hours to their advice and their instruc-
tion in the marriage laws of Moses, instruction which
I must follow through all my life.
First I was forbidden ever to use the impudent words,
" My husband." I must say, " Himself," or " My
master." Still more strictly, I was commanded never
to speak to him, nor even to look at him, during the
forty days. Nor must I speak to any other member of
the household ; I must wait humbly to be addressed,
and reply in one or two words, keeping my hands folded
on my breast and my eyes downcast.
Thus imprisoned within myself, I lost hope, like a
criminal condemned to solitude. It seemed to me that
even at the far future ending of forty days I should
never be allowed to speak freely to him, who alone of
all the household was young enough to understand
me, and I despaired of ever knowing the joys of love
described by the poets.
Every morning, at the third crowing of the cocks, I
rose from my couch by my new mother's side. With a
sad heart I dressed myself in my Armenian festival
robes of heavy brocaded velvet and gold or silver lace.
I put on all the jewels that had been given me on my
marriage day : a ring from each of my uncles and aunts,
and one from each of the uncles and aunts of my
husband. These rings, family heirlooms of pure soft
gold carved in intricate designs and set with jewels of
all colours, quite weighted down all my fingers. Around
my neck the four strings of pearls with an enormous
cross of diamonds, the gift of my new mother. When
she presented it, one of the household had said, " That
cross is very heavy, and a bad omen for a young bride.
It would be better to give her the pearls without the
cross." My new mother coloured, and refused to take
back the cross which I timidly offered. It was indeed
very heavy, and its weight on my breast was like another
load for my heart to carry. " God grant that thy
marriage be not as heavy upon thee as that cross," the
women said to me, and every morning when I put it
on I remembered those words. The cross was terri-
fying to me, but I wore it, in order not to wound my
As soon as I was dressed, I hastened to the court to
await the appearance of Assatour-Khan. It was my
duty to empty upon his head a jar of cold water, which
he had the habit of enjoying every morning in order, as
he said, to clear the brain. This was a service which my
husband's mother had suggested to me as a delicate
attention to my new father ; one of the scores of ser-
vants had formerly performed it. While Assatour-Khan
dried his head, I ran to the veranda, where servants
were preparing the morning tea. One of them indi-
cated to me the proper little tray ; I took it and entered
the hall of State, where, standing with respectfully
lowered eyes under the gaze of the three ancient ladies,
I held the tray until Assatour-Khan should enter.
He arrived, said good morning, and held his hand to
my lips. I kissed it and waited, without moving or
uttering a word, while he drank his tea. Then I
handed the tray to a servant who waited for it behind
a door, and from another servant I took a heavy Bible.
Having read a verse from it and recited " Our Father,"
I awaited Assatour- Khan's commands.
As he knew by heart the calendar of the days of the
saints and apostles in which our religion is very rich,
he said without hesitation, " We honour to-day Saint
Matthew and. Saint Kirakas, as well as the luminous
spirit of Saint Karapet."
He installed himself on a divan, and I prepared to
read for three hours from heavy books written in the
Armenian of the Middle Ages, which I repeated per-
fectly without understanding one word. Happy to
find me so enlightened in the scriptures, my new father
was not sorry to find a few evidences of negligence in
my education, as he was flattered by his ability to
" My daughter, I find that your knowledge of the
rites of our religion leaves much to be desired. There-
fore I wish you to learn by heart the marriage service
and the service for the dead, as well as the Christmas and
" Yes, my father."
" And now you will recite for me the genealogy of
the family of Noah."
I clasped my hands more tightly. My knees trem-
bled beneath me with weariness and apprehension. In
a low voice I began, uttered a few words, faltered and
stopped. I could not remember all the names of
Noah's great-grandchildren. My head was bowed, but
I felt the cruel glances of the three ancient women.
" My daughter," said Assatour-Khan, in a kind but
firm voice, " to be ignorant of the two hundred and
forty-four names of the fathers of Abraham is to be
ignorant of our own origin. You will repeat them after
me, striving to imprint them indelibly upon your
He began to recite the names, and I repeated them
faithfully. Seeing him confuse the Abet branch with
that of Shem, I said nothing, but respectfully followed
him in his errors.
Without boasting, I may say that in a little time I had
learned so well the generations of the descendants of
Noah that when I awakened in the middle of the night
I could recite in one breath, without even shaking off
my sleepiness, not only the two hundred and forty-four
names, but those of their legitimate wives and of all
their concubines by whom they had children.
Delighted by this brilliant progress, Assatour-Khan
one day gave me a string of amber beads to which, he
told me, I might add miraculous powers by fasting for
fourteen days and repeating twenty-four prayers a day,
one for each hour.
" But, my father," I had the courage to ask humbly,
" must one eat nothing at all during all that time ? "
" One may eat a very little," he replied, " but no
meat, milk, honey nor fruit."
Such a penitence seemed more than I could endure,
I who so loved fruits and had never passed a day without
eating quantities of them. However, knowing that
his praises of my efforts had become known through the
whole province, and wishing to win his heart com-
pletely and to overcome entirely the bad omens of my
entrance into his household, I condemned myself to
My resolution was praised by the whole family.
When we assembled on our divans to eat together in
the large room that opened from the hall of State, the
old Hadji came to sit beside me and share my fast.
He highly commended my desire to taste the joys of a
pure spirit devoted to God, and I endeavoured to turn
my thoughts from worldly things. But it was hard to
keep the tears from my eyes, which in spite of all my
efforts would rest on the platters of savoury meats, the
jars of fruits and melons, the piles of honeycomb and
the heaps of saffron-scented rice that covered the long
table at our knees. It seemed to me that I might have
been more filled with love of God if I could have tasted
One midnight, having awakened to say the prayer
for that hour, I was falling asleep again when suddenly
I felt the earth shaking. I heard the laughter of
demons and the shrieks of women. I clutched the
coverlets around me, staring into the darkness, and I
saw the door slowly opening. Something red appeared
in it ; it was the red beard of a Tartar with shaven
head, and in an instant I was surrounded by yellow-
skinned men who seized me in hairy claws. I screamed,
but my throat made no sounds, and I flung myself
frantically upon my mother-in-law, shrieking in a
whisper, " Save me ! Save me ! "
The poor woman held me in her arms, calling for
lights and invoking all the saints. When the terrified
servants ran in with lamps there were no Tartars, and
I was very much confused. The next day my mother-
in-law announced to all the household that I had seen
spirits in the night.
The following night it was a Cossack who woke me
with his shrill whistle and, holding me down, tried to
bury his teeth in my throat.
It was decided to call the hakims, with whom
Assatour-Khan discussed my malady. They said that
fears had made the soul of my brain fly away from me,
and they counselled that I should at once be taken to
see spectacles which would divert me.
One of the uncles of the household offered to take
me to the bazaar, which that evening was blazing with
torches in honour of a great fete. I venerated this
uncle more than any other, because he had travelled
in the civilized magnificent lands west of the Black
Sea. Some years earlier he had made the journey to
see those " countries of light " with his own eyes, and
a reminiscence of that marvellous experience was seen
even yet in his costume. Over his arcalouk — the
Armenian robe of satin gathered at the waist by a
silver girdle — he wore the coat, a European garment of
thick cloth that would have appeared to me ugly, had
it not been haloed by the glamour of its origin. His
adventurous spirit quailed before the European head-
covering, which he admitted to be monstrous in its
hideousness and its discomfort, and he wore the
customary tall bonnet of astrakhan, but his feet were
clad in American shoes. These, and the coat, he con-
sidered sufficient to show the world that he was a
civilized man, who knew the Western world. I felt
profoundly the honour of being accompanied by such
a man, and when, turning to me, he said, " God grant
you to-night such amusement as will drive the evil
spirits from you for ever," I felt myself already restored
Truly there were many things that amused me, and
this change from the severe life behind the gates to the
light, colour and movement of the bazaar made me
gay. It was almost impossible to get through the
crooked streets, where the walls were like banks, too
narrow to allow the streams of people to pass. At
every instant we were halted ; beggars, gypsies, hand-
some men in turbans jostled us, and at a cry the mass
swayed this way and that to let a richly decked camel
go by, undulating his long neck and showing the
venomous gaze of a serpent between his half-shut lids.
In the wider spaces we stepped carefully past heaps
of silks, embroideries, cakes, jewelled ornaments,
spread on little rugs beside which the merchants
crouched. Sweetmeat-sellers bargained over trays of
figs, dates and fruits glazed with bright red syrup that
shone like great rubies. Here were puppets dancing
upon a cord ; there was a fakir, cross-legged on the
ground in a ring of spectators, making a tree grow from
a seed, bud, blossom and fruit, where no tree was.
Snake-charmers swayed beside their tripods, while
bright-eyed snakes whose tongues quivered like jets of
smoke wound themselves around bare neck and arms.
The shrill sound of a little pipe was calling the hooded
head of a cobra from a basket for his Indian master.
And above the heads of the crowd, which moved like
grain in a wind, one saw the grey back of an enor-
mous elephant, on which monkeys were performing
13ut it was the sound of thars and tambourines which
drew me. We came to a platform where two musi-
cians accompanied the movements of a little dancer
who crouched before them. Her hair was dishevelled,
her small face seemed aged in its youth, and while she
sang a plaintive air her body moved with the rhythm of
the melody, like the contortions of a wounded serpent.
There was so much suffering, so much revolt in her
gestures, now frantic and angry, now weary and heart-
sick. Without saying a word she expressed all her
experience of the villanies, the ingratitude, the cruelty
of humanity toward one who has no longer anything
She finished the dance and held out her tambourine
to the crowd, with a gesture asking only a few pennies.
The bystanders, laughing, rewarded her with handfuls
of refuse. A rotten egg smashed in the tambourine, to
the joy of the crowd, a few pebbles followed, and many
insults. She shrugged her shoulders and, as if she had
heard nothing, coldly looked at the throng. Her eyes
met mine, and in that instant I saw all the misery in
which she lived, disdained by those to whom yesterday
she was throwing her youth with open hands. She
turned away, covered her face with her hair, and rested
a moment before beginning another dance.
I tugged at my uncle's sleeve, begging him to take
" Yes, let us go," he said. " You are right. Why
should we look at this lost girl ? There is nothing in
the world more impious than a dancer."
He advanced toward a throng that surrounded a
dozen dignified men seated on a carpet. " This will
amuse you, my child. Here justice punishes crime
and teaches a moral lesson to the people. It is the
tribunal where the orders of the Vizirs are carried out
The crowd recognized our servant who went before
us, and elbowing right and left it separated to give us
the place of honour, two small pieces of dirty carpet
beside several old men who smclled of onions. Con-
cealed by my veils, I awaited with curiosity my first
sight of the working of justice.
A man, weeping and holding his right hand against
his breast, came toward us from the row of judges. I
thought at first that his hand was broken, but seeing
him kissing it tenderly while the spectators laughed,
I asked my uncle what this meant. Laughing also,
he answered, " He is a thief, my child ; may the washers
of corpses carry him away ! He has stolen with that
hand ; now it will be cut off. That is a spectacle
worth seeing ! "
I could not believe my ears, but at that instant I
saw another man beside a small block, laughing while
he sharpened a hatchet.
Trembling, I hurled myself through the crowd,
followed by my shocked uncle. He was outraged by
my extravagant conduct, which had cost him the sight
of that spectacle, and very much grieved he took me
back to the house.
That night I awoke to find that my hands had been
cut off at the wrists. I could not control my shrieks,
and while my mother-in-law called upon all the saints
to quiet me I went from one spasm of horror into
This proved to everyone that the hakims had been
ill-advised, and an old magician well known to the
servants was summoned. This wrinkled old woman,
D.S. Ill H
bent double, came supporting herself by a staff and
listened to the story of my strange obsessions. Evil
spirits had taken possession of me, she said, and after
hanging talismans about my neck, my wrists and my
ankles, she ordered that I be led dancing to the tombs
of the saints. The spirits, made wretched by my
rapid movements and the sharp sounds of the cymbals,
would leave me, and when they sought to return, the
talismans would prevent them.
But the evil spirits did not leave me. I returned to
the house trembling with exhaustion, and fell into a
stupor during which I moaned without ceasing.
As a last resort, a remedy advised by the three
ancient ladies was tried : without my knowing it I was
given the urine of one of my aunts in a drink of spiced
wine. But as this did not restore my health, the
household despaired, and sent to a neighbouring
province for a wise man whom every one believed to
be a prophet.
He was brought into the great salon where, covered
with my veils and supported by my mother-in-law
and aunts, I received him. He was a dervish, a hand-
some man about thirty years old. His body was bare
and bronzed by the sun, a camel's skin covered his
hips. Thick curling hair made a natural turban for
his head, and his gaze, disdaining those around him,
was fixed on the distance. Standing before us, resting
on his staff, he bore himself with a haughty air, not
replying to the questions which my elders asked.
When he spoke, his words fell from his lips like pebbles.
" What was the day and the year of her birth ?
What was her name in her infancy ? " He wrote the
replies on a tablet taken from the folds of camel's
skin. Then, stopping in front of me, he looked at me
for a long time, and said as if to himself, " The heart
of this child cries out for joy, song, and green fields
under her eyes."
Oh, how happy I was to see that some one understood
what I lacked !
Without another word he went away. At the end
of three days he returned, having studied the stars
under which I was born.
" Her destiny will lead her through all the lands of
the earth. She will not remain long in any place.
Great crowds will acclaim her name, praising her in
many strange languages. I have seen the high houses
where she will live. She will live for some time in a
city without wells. She will never be sick, but gloomy
skies will darken her spirit. The numbers 3, 7 and 9
will never be unlucky for her."
He departed, refusing all gifts and leaving me
troubled. " Great crowds will acclaim her name."
The baffling obscurity of this prediction completely
upset my thoughts. What could it mean ?
At last I seized upon its hidden sense. No doubt,
though I was married, I would live a virgin until my
death. Our church, to recompense me, would add
my name to those of the saints, and Armenians in
crowds would come to salute my tomb, glorifying my
name in psalms.
I fell asleep that night to dream quietly of fountains
and green grass and peace.
What was my astonishment at the news that greeted
my waking ! The nuptial bath was being prepared
for me ; I would be received that night in my husband's
apartments. This was done by order of the prophet,
who had also commanded that my religious instruction
be stopped. Dear, dear prophet, who alone under-
stood me ! I resolved that if at some distant day I
should renounce a worldly life I would follow him as a
beggar in his pilgrimages.
Accompanied by young girls of my own age, and by
the elderly women who were to bathe us, I was taken to
the baths. From the court we saw only a low dome
of coloured glass, like a bed of dull flowers. A narrow
stairway led us underground to a star-shaped room.
Its walls were entirely covered by tiles of enamel,
painted and ornamented by Persian writing. These
were the verses of Ferdousi, illustrated by famous
artists. Had we had time to read them all, we would
have come from the baths knowing all of Persian
Benches covered with rugs followed the outline of
the walls, and sitting upon them, chattering like
sparrows, we undressed ourselves. Lengths of striped
silk were given us, and tying them about our hips we
went into the next room, where walls of heated stone
surrounded a pool of warm water. We sat on the
edge of the pool and dabbled our toes in it while the
bathers let down our hair. Then we passed into the
next room, as large as a mosque.
The vaulted ceiling was supported by square columns
of stone that radiated heat. In niches of the walls five
lions' heads of bronze poured boiling water into five
bronze bowls. A breath of freshness coming from the
sixth niche indicated the kindly lion whose jaws
yielded cold water. In the distance an oblong of
yellow light was the doorway of a small room illu-
minatcd by a lantern, where the bathers removed
from the bodies of older women everything that
reminds us of our origin from monkeys. But our
adolescent bodies treated with contempt the mysteries
of that room.
Lounging upon carpeted slabs under the rays of the
sun, golden and green and red, that pierced the
coloured glasses of the dome, we let all the hours of
the day trickle between our idle fingers.
First, the bathers soaped our hair and left it for some
time in foamy turbans on our heads. When the soap
was washed away the hair was dipped in henna and
left wrapped in reddening cloths. After the henna,
which strengthens the roots, women rinsed the hair
for an hour and covered it with curdled milk, which
nourishes the scalp. After another interval, came
another hour of rinsing and an hour of drying and
combing. Then the hair, dipped in rose-water, was
It was noon, and in another room luncheon awaited
us on little copper platters. We went happily, eager
to taste the cooler air and to feel beneath our bodies the
freshness of divans covered with woven straw. To our
dismay, the bathers feared our being chilled, and com-
pelled us to return to the bathroom for our dessert,
goblets of sherbet and trays of fruit. Then we rested
for a while, stretched out on the hot rugs moist with
steam, while the servants brought the kalian.
For the first time I tasted the scented smoke drawn
from the tiny bowl, through the bubbling water per-
fumed with attar of roses, and through the long pipe to
the silver mouthpiece at my lips. It brought me a
delicious sensation of age and experience. I lay on the
rugs, drawing deep breaths of the smoke and letting
them curl from my lips to mingle with the steam in the
rays of coloured light, and realized all the dignity of my
fifteen years. But in a little while I felt dizzy, and
gladly let the kalian be taken from us by the bathers.
Our bodies were abandoned to these vigorous old
women, girdled with white, whose bare skin shone with
steam and perspiration. They massaged every muscle,
made all our joints creak, beat our flesh, dipped us into
warm water and then into cold, soaped us till we lay in
mountains of foam, rubbed us with curdled milk, finally
rinsed us for two hours in water scented with herbs, and
at last, with the words " Ya Allah ! " allowed us to
escape into the large pool of perfumed water, while they
retired into another room.
They had every difficulty imaginable in persuading us
to leave the pool two hours later, because, sitting on the
edge of the basin and eating oranges, the young girls
were tellingsuch amusing stories that we were exhausted
with laughter. Attracted by our gaiety, the servants
came in from time to time to share it and to tell stories
of their own. Night had covered the glass dome with
darkness, and the lanterns were lighted, long before the
bathers coaxed and scolded us into our clothes, and my
nuptial bath was ended.
In the little room I had shared with my mother-in-
law the gMo diessed me in my wedding garment, warn-
ing me that next day the old women of the household
would take it to show to all the women of the city as
proof of my virginity, a warning which made me
naively regret that I had not been violated during the
massacres, in order to escape such ceremonies.
Finally I was led to my husband's apartments, where
the young girls left me, alone and a little confused. I
found myself in a small chamber draped with sombre
cashmeres. In a corner behind a curtain of tapestry I
saw mats and cushions arranged on the floor, and before
them a few bottles of Shiraz wines and several silver
platters of cold meats wreathed with flowers. These
were revealed in the glow from the brazier, and by the
feeble twinkle of a lamp of pierced silver that hung
from the draped ceiling.
It was here that my master, coming from his bath,
would meet me alone for the first time. The idea of
showing him a delicate courtesy at this first meeting
came to me naturally, and I resolved to touch nothing
in the room until he came. A tremendous weariness,
too great to be told, had fallen upon me after the
fatigue of the bath. I longed for a swallow of wine, but
not wishing to disarrange the feast or the cushions, I
resigned myself to , waiting beside the brazier.
Painfully balancing my body upright above my folded
legs, I watched the fantastic contours of the flames. I
imagined the entrance of him whom I awaited. I tried
to divine his first words, his first gestures, his first em-
brace. At intervals my heart stopped ; each sound
from without clutched it, then released it to beat
hurriedly, announcing his arrival. But the door did
Suddenly, with a gasping flicker, the lamp went out.
I asked myself how long I had waited. Had the lamp
drunk all its oil, or had a careless servant forgotten to
fill it ? I did not regret its light, for the shadows
moved among the draperies with a mysterious air that
pleased while it half -frightened me. It was the fire in
the brazier that distressed me ; it slowly covered itself
with ashes. A chill crept through the perfumed air,
and my teeth chattered. I hugged my body with my
arms to quiet its shivering.
A fearful thought stabbed my heart ; the bath, filled
with smoke, might have smothered my poor master.
My blood turned to ice. I saw his body stretched out
upon the slabs, his face like white marble ; I saw the
servants carrying his shrouded body into the room of
State, and the three ancient ladies leaning forward like
vultures from their divan. Here he lay in his coffin ;
the earth received him ; the rain fell upon his tomb.
God, I have not yet had an opportunity to sin, for
what sin of my ancestors dost Thou punish me so
cruelly ! What have I done to Thee, that Thou art
become a monster toward me ? Bring back my hus-
band, rny husband without whom I cannot live, and I
will for ever adore Thee, I swear it by Thy sun !
1 walked up and down the room. I crouched near
the door, putting my ear against it and listening.
No sound. No light. No hope. O God, he is dead !
The last glow from the brazier vanished, leaving me
alone in darkness. I strained my eyes, I crept towards
the brazier, hoping to find one coal, just one little coal
to keep away the darkness. But the darkness was filled
with Tartars, Tartars with foul hairy claws. O Heaven !
I felt them on my hair, on my veils. I saw the lights
of their eyes. No, it was the glimmer of a candle.
The door opened, and a ghost entered. I recognized
him ; it was the spirit of my dead father. He entered,
closing the door behind him.
Crouched in the folds of the curtains, my head
squeezed between my knees, I screamed. And while
the scream tore from my throat as though my soul went
with it, I felt hands on my shoulders. It was my dead
father who dropped the candle, who seized me as if to
strangle me, and who cried, " It is I. It is I, your
husband ! "
But nothing any longer existed for me. A fever had
seized my brain, and when I opened my eyes I found
myself on a balcony above a rose-garden. My husband,
kneeling beside me and kissing my hand, told me ten-
derly that two months had passed since he found me
delirious, and that we were in a little palace of the
Vizirs at Teheran, where he had brought me to be
Persia : 'Teheran
I FOUND myself, then, at Teheran with my master
in the house of a former Vizir, killed by his rival at the
dawn of a night of love. I found myself among the
roses of my dreams, in the sunshine of gardens cooled
by fountains and shaded by trees in which birds sang
at dawn. Beside me was my young husband, grave,
serene, handsome as a hero of the poems that had taught
me to dream of love. His eyes were like dark pools in the
shadow of caverns, his forehead was white as alabaster,
his profile was chiselled like that of the antique gods
who live to-day only in marble, majestic, severe, and
breaking the heart with their beauty.
I loved him. I adored him. My soul became a
limpid stream at his feet. When I touched his cheek
timidly with my hand he trembled, and I knew the
rapture of a surrender so complete that it is conquest.
When he had gone I sent quickly for mirrors. I
longed to be beautiful for him. Fever had worn my
cheeks, but my eyes, large, dark and brilliant, looked at
me from the silver pool, promising me delights that
made me blush with happiness. I sent for slaves to
brush back the gleaming into my hair ; I sent for per-
fumes and silks. Life poured again through my veins,
warm and intoxicating as the rays of the sun.
My cheeks rounded, my arms regained their curving
lines of amber and rose. My feet danced on the garden
paths. I was beautiful, I was young, I was loved. In
the moonlight, on the balcony above the roses, I lay
beside my husband, so happy that the eternal joys of
Paradise would not have tempted me to give up one
glance from his eyes.
But the intoxication of his kisses was to me an intoxi-
cation of fever, of longing. Something in him eluded
me. I was troubled, and humble. Was I not good
enough, was I not beautiful ? Oh, how devotedly,
how passionately, I would try to be worthy of him !
" Do you not love me ? " I murmured.
" I adore you," he said, in a thick and trembling
voice. What was it that I could not reach ? What
was it that I felt fleeing from me, that escaped my
He talked to me of God, of the beauty of Christ Who
had given His life for the world, and I worshipped the
nobility of his soul and his tenderness which, like that
of Christ, was great enough to cover all the earth. His
eyes were lighted with visions, he saw a beauty beyond
all the beauty that I knew, and I remained silent by his
side. As for me, I was only a small wife, a woman ; I
worshipped God best in His sunshine, His dawns, His
small birds and flowers and His perfect handiwork, my
I was happy. I was so happy ! God had given me
so much that all my life would not repay Him. Morn-
ing and evening and before every meal, while my hus-
band prayed, I thanked God in my heart. He had
given me so much. What was the little, little thing I
lacked ? Perhaps it was the complete love of God
which should fill my heart. But my heart was already
so filled with love for my husband, and surely God
meant me to love the husband he had given me ?
I was quite well again, all my body was filled with joy
of living. But a strange fever consumed my soul, and
at night I lay awake, burning with it, like a traveller in
the desert tortured by thirst.
My husband wished me to know our neighbours.
So, although I loved my gardens, where swans as white
as snow and as black as ebony drifted across the smooth
pools beneath cascades of willow branches, where the
paths were bordered with flowers and the sound of
running water accompanied the songs of birds, although
I should have been for ever contented to stay in them
and in my dusky rooms draped with cashmeres, where
I lay on divans soft as the breast of doves and little
tables inlaid with silver and pearl offered me, in copper
jars, heaps of ice-cooled grapes and pomegranates and
figs, I must leave them all to visit strange people.
Dressed in my robes of soft silks, adorned with all my
jewels, I covered myself with veils, and preceded by
servants I ventured from my gate to the gate of the
garden that adjoined ours.
It was the garden of General Sasso-Tates, an
Armenian " man of the world," that is to say, in Persia
as in Europe, a man who moved easily in Society in his
own city. He was not only a military man, he was also
a merchant who dealt in rugs, old potteries, ancient
silver and gold ornaments. More than that, he was one
of the most successful usurers of Persia. He was well
received everywhere, because in everything that did not
concern money he had the best of hearts, being always
in a good humour and ready to drink with anyone.
His two oldest sons were already Cossacks, and always
wore their arms — rifles on their shoulders, daggers and
revolvers at their belts. These weapons were removed
only while their wearers slept or ate. At dinner, when
we assembled around the cloth, the two young men
unfastened their belts and laid them aside, so that the
revolvers and knives would not bother them while they
squatted to eat. They were hearty men, who laughed
easily, and while we women spoke little — and I did not
find the wife of General Sasso-Tates, mother of his ten
children, very sympathetic to my younger spirits — I
enjoyed well enough a dinner in her house.
As etiquette required, I returned her calls from time
to time, and visited a few other women of the exclusive
But I always returned gladly to my own house to
await my husband, sun of my existence, whose glances,
like the rays of the sun, both warmed and parched me.
We had been together six weeks. It was dawn. The
first twittering of the birds had awakened me, to find
myself alone. Unable to sleep again I rose, bathed my
face and hands in perfumed cool water, and put on a
simple gown of thin white lawn. From the balcony I
saw my husband walking in the garden. I hesitated,
and then went to meet him.
He stood beside a little fountain, where white marble
loves played in the spray. When he saw me, he turned
his head away, and I stopped, wounded, ready to flee
back into the house, but before I could do so he was
coming toward me. In a firm voice he told me that
he had a sacred task to accomplish. He wished to
speak to me about it. He led me to a marble bench
beneath a rose-tree.
I knew, he said, that the world is filled with crime
and injustices. The hands of men are cruel against
their brothers ; hate and envy and greed fill their
hearts. The poor die of hunger, the rich murder their
own souls with luxury. If the world is to be saved, it
must be re-created, it must be made new again by the
power of Christian love.
The time was approaching when this would be done.
Justice would come. Terrible as an army of the Lord,
justice would dethrone kings, drive the nobles from
their palaces, destroy the idle, the cruel and the self-
indulgent. There would be no more kings nor slaves,
no more palaces, no more temples nor mosques.
Cleansed of all human passions, simple in spirit and
pure in heart, mankind would taste the joys of
Paradise. The earth would become God's heaven.
This idea overwhelmed me. I sat motionless, un-
able to speak or think, and I saw the rose-petals falling
slowly, with little lifts and quivers, toward the earth.
" Soon," he continued, " we shall abandon this
luxury, I shall be free. I shall go to rouse unhappy
souls and to awaken their just anger against the miseries
and crimes of the world. The righteous anger of man
is the flaming weapon of God. Its fire will devour this
rotten world, and from the ashes will rise another world
in which the first shall be last, and the last first."
" When ? " I asked, trembling.
" Soon," he replied.
My paradise vanished like a mist, and with it all the
joy in my heart. The few words that I had understood
terrified me. I melted into tears.
" O God ! " I cried, " Thou Who existest in
Heaven to accomplish our desires, make me blind before
this calamity ! Hide me under the earth ! I would
not know how to live with a perfect humanity. I love
the world that Thou hast created, the world Thou
deignest to support as it is. O Celestial Commander,
T E H E R AN
leave me my master, my cushions, my dear negroes with
gentle eyes who kiss my garments when I caress their
children ! Do not take from me my gardens, my
roses, my birds ! O God, it is so little that I ask of all
Thy great world ! "
But God was deaf. And I learned that my dear
master, whom I adored, had left his parent's home by
the door of marriage only that he might be free to
begin his pilgrimage for the salvation of the world.
As he was only nineteen years old, and as unmarried
sons, of whatever age, are always considered part of
their father's household and subservient to the wishes
of the elders, he had been unable to start on his holy
mission, of which Assatour-Khan would not hear two
words. Only marriage would free him. As master of
his own household, he could do whatever he desired.
That was the reason he had ceased to talk of his plan
for saving the world and begun to speak of marriage.
That was the reason he had married me. He had not
thought that he would love me. Our love had been a
temptation that had delayed his soul upon its way, but
he had conquered it.
Alone upon the floor of our darkened rooms, I wept
until I had no tears. My heart was a broken fountain.
In a few days my master called our slaves together,
and dismissed them all. They were like sheep deprived
of a shepherd. Old Tahia, whose shrunken black hands
had combed my hair and tried to soothe my agony,
prostrated herself at his feet and begged him not to
deliver her to liberty. He allowed her to remain with
" As for you," he told me, " you shall return to my
father's house at Rcsht."
But I also fell at his feet and begged him not to con-
demn me to that. I prayed him not to send me back
to that house whose very memory made me shudder
with cold. I begged him with tears to be so kind as to
leave me to die by the roadside, so that I might die in
the sun, and free.
Weeping with me, he granted my prayer. He gave
me a handful of the gold for which he had sold all his
property, intending to devote it all to the salvation of
the world. As gold meant nothing to either of us, I
did not think of it again. I thought only of my
beloved husband. And he, my husband whom I wor-
shipped, led us into the poor quarter, installed us in a
bare hut, and left for the frontier of Turkey to save
Nothing existed any more for me, neither the sky nor
the earth. In losing him, I had lost the light of my
eyes. There remained only one thing to do, to die.
But how ? I would drown myself in a pond. No ;
the djinns live there and make the dead their mis-
tresses. A ball, a little round ball of steel, that would
be better. The house of General Sasso-Tates was full
of arms. . . .
Tahia arranged my hair. The smooth black curves
of it lay like strokes of ink above my feverish eyes. I
painted my lips, my cheeks. I clasped my bracelets on
my arms. Tahia straightened the folds of my veils.
We went to the house of General Sasso-Tates. We
arrived just at the end of dinner, and I was asked to
share their coffee. The Cossack sons had laid aside their
belts ; a heap of knives and revolvers lay in a corner
of the room. Unobserved, I took one of the revolvers.
I came back to the hut, the hard shape of the revolver
pressed against my side, beneath the veils. Alone, I
held it in my hand. One instant of resolution, and it
would end all my pain.
I pressed it against the beating of my heart. A
tumult filled me, like the roar of a mob. A million
little voices clamoured in my blood, in my body, crying
out against death, shrieking to live, only to live. I
pulled the trigger, and felt myself falling.
Some one was gently caressing my cheeks. Was it my
master ? I opened my eyes. It was my dog. I shall
never forget his look ; humanity, such as I had imagined
it to be, was in his eyes.
" Why have you done this ? " he was saying to me.
" I love you."
Some one had extracted the ball from my chest ;
some one had carried me to the hospital — the hospital,
dreaded by all Asiatics as the tomb itself. Bare white
walls were around me. I lay motionless and silent. I
did not wish to live, and the ways of God seemed to
The door opened, and I saw approaching the comical
silhouette of General Sasso-Tates. His bald head
shone like the egg of a roc, his fiery moustache hung
almost to his silver belt, his uniform was covered with
medals, his hand on the hilt of his sword.
He seemed deeply moved. " Now, now," he said,
" do not speak, it is forbidden you. Listen, my
eaglet," he continued, sitting on the edge of my bed.
" I am an old soldier experienced in combats. There
is nothing more sublime to me than courage, my little
vulture. It is I — I, the General Sasso-Tates — who
says it. You are a tiger, a lion, a very panther, and if
d.s. 127 1
you were dead, I would make a funeral for you that
would surpass all imagination. I would take your body
into my own house, I would cover it with the most
expensive fabrics, I would hire innumerable mourners,
and all the priests of Teheran. After you were buried,
for the funeral meats I would sacrifice a hundred sheep.
In my gardens a feast lasting seven days would be served
to the poor, and their prayers would bribe the angels
to find a place for you beside the Great Judge and all
the Trinity. But " — and he sighed with sincere
regret — " you are not dead."
His expression was so grieved, his desolation at find-
ing himself deprived of this unique occasion to show
the world his great generosity was so profound, that a
laugh contracted my poor chest. Drops of blood
appeared upon my lips.
" God, Christ and all the saints ! " cried the general,
turning pale. And he fled.
Later I was told that General Sasso-Tates had pre-
sented himself at the hospital as my protector, but that
on being shown the bill for the care given me he had
uttered a long discourse, seasoned with sighs, declaring
that he had suffered a great reverse of fortune, and that
he would soon be on the streets begging, with his wife
and children. After this, he left without paying a
penny, and was not seen again. But I had no re-
proaches for him, for that laugh had mysteriously
restored to me a willingness to live.
I lay alone all day in the hospital. The very name
of this place, the only hospital in Teheran, was abhorred
by the people, and with reason, since one received there
very little encouragement to live. I found nothing but
emptiness, heat, and the unbearable glare of the un-
shaded sun on whitewash. A jar of water was left
beside my bed by the attendants, who lived in another
house at some little distance, where they slept or
amused themselves during the day. At morning and
evening they came to bring me food from their own
house. I passed the day with my head beneath the
blankets, which were my only shade, and from time to
time I dipped my fingers in the water-jar and moistened
There was only one other patient, a little negro nine
years old, who had been bought by the wife of an am-
bassador to Persia during a visit in Koum. After hav-
ing him castrated, the lady had taken the little eunuch
to Europe with her, so that she might appear in Paris
and London as a real Sheherazade.
At the end of a few weeks he spat blood, and was sent
to die in Persia.
I pitied this little negro, so quickly destroyed by the
civilized countries, and tried to cheer him with con-
versation. He avowed that he had so hated everything
European that he had stubbornly refused to eat their
dishes or to speak a word of the barbarous language.
He described to me the coldness of everything in those
lands ; the eyes, the voices, the manners of the people
were cold, the houses were cold, the streets were
covered with snow, and even the sky, in which the sun
never shone, was a cold grey. This sky often descended
into the streets, so that the air itself was grey. One
could not sec ; a cold breath as of the grave chilled
even the cold blood of Europeans ; Death himself
walked there upon the earth.
One day his voice had hardly strength enough to
reach me, and seeing that he was so nearly dying, I said
to him, " Perhaps your heart wishes something, Kara.
Tell it to me, I am your sister."
" Take me to Koum. I want to die near my mother,"
But this was impossible. He sighed, then, leaning on
his elbow, he fixed his naive gaze upon me and said,
" Then please tell these French that I shall soon die,
and ask them to take away the bitter liquids that they
force me to swallow night and day, and let me eat some
That night, after many supplications, the attendants
finally consented to let the little Kara die as he wished,
while eating some kebab.
When an old negro carried away his body wrapped
in rags, I, too, like little Kara, felt a profound hatred
for all the great ladies of Europe.
The intolerable sunlight made even the contours of
the walls dance. The air, agitated by waves of heat,
appeared like boiling water. In the hospital there
were no cool underground vaults to shield one from
the terrible gaze of the sun. Tottering, I crept from
my bed and crawled in search of some refuge. An
operating-table furnished it. Tahia draped it with
blankets, making a tent in which I crouched. The
attendants, coming at night, made no objection to my
plan. I spent my days in this shelter, where I found
shade, fresh water and fruits. A ray of light passing
through the drapery fell upon the love-poem of Leily
and Medjnoun which I read. Suddenly I heard steps
in the room.
They were those of a young Persian woman with
features as clear-cut as those of a mummy. An expres-
sion of great fatigue shadowed her noble face. I recog-
nized " The Queen of the Crowns," celebrated for the
great beauty which she was willingly destroying by the
opium that made her forget her sorrows. Her story
was known to all Persia.
She was a Persian princess, closely related to the
Shah. According to the custom of her people, when
she was eleven years old she was married to a young
prince of the court, and taken to his house to live until
she should be old enough to become in reality his wife.
Surrounded by the women of his household, in the
gardens and apartments reserved for their use, she
heard nothing but praises of his beauty, and nourished
her heart on dreams of him and his love. From time
to time, careless and handsome as a young god, he
came into the indoroun, and reclining on cushions
allowed her to serve him fruits or tea, while she, trem-
bling with happiness beneath her veils, hardly dared
utter a word.
At the end of two years, as was customary, her hus-
band was told that she was now old enough to be his
wife, and after the nuptial baths and an evening of
feasting and music she was led at midnight to his
apartments and left alone with him. But the prince,
a young gallant of twenty-three years, was not at all
interested in the timid child ten years younger than
he. Accustomed to the blooming flowers of love, the
courtesans and dancers of the court, he saw nothing
beautiful in the bud that had not yet spread its petals.
He accepted her with every courtesy, and continued his
usual life of gaiety outside the walls of his house.
The young wife, left neglected, suffered such tor-
ments as demons are too tenderhearted to inflict.
She loved him, while he, too careless for scorn, did not
think of her at all. Too proud to plead with him, she
endeavoured to hide her anguish, and to endure his
love for others without a protest. But when, after
days of loneliness, she saw him returning happy and
beautiful as the sun, her passionate heart could no
longer bear its suffering. She upbraided him with
terrible words and cries, threatening, in her rage against
life that so tormented her, to kill him and to kill her-
self. These storms of fury startled and annoyed the
young prince, who found himself married to a whirlwind
that upset his whole household.
At length he perceived a happy road by which he
might escape such turmoil and again live in peace.
Pretending to adore her, he remained for some weeks at
her side, lavishing upon her all the tenderness of love,
while he taught her the delights of the drug that
destroys realities and fills the mind with fantastic and
delicious dreams. Shown the way by a hand whose
very shadow she loved, his young wife soon learned to
give her days and her nights to opium, and the prince,
satisfied that now she would no longer trouble him,
returned to his courtesans.
The prince had not been deceived ; his wife no
longer made his homecomings unpleasant. Now, for
ever convinced that the real world was a desert, and
the hope of happiness a mirage luring humanity to
greater torments, she gave herself entirely to the drug.
Lying on her cushions with the pipe by her side, she
was tranquil and calm, while her husband pursued his
Thus four years passed,and the princess was a woman.
One day her husband, returning from a long absence,
passed through her apartment and was struck motion-
less by her beauty. She had bloomed like a flower.
Her body was rounded and graceful, her lips red and
voluptuous, her dark eyes pools of shadows. Opium
had left on her features the poetic traces of dreams
and visions unshared by others. The prince passion-
ately took her in his arms and covered her face with
kisses. She remained as indifferent to his embrace as
a flower. Chilled by her coldness, he released her and
left her apartments.
But from that moment he was unable to erase her
image from his mind. He abandoned his friends, dis-
missed his dancers, and remained in his own house,
trying by every art to win the love of this woman who
had awakened his first real tenderness. He adored her,
tenderly, passionately, hopefully and despairingly.
He filled her rooms with flowers, he covered her with
jewels, he sent her verses written by his own hand ; at
last he knelt at her feet and wept. But the proud
princess remained indifferent.
The prince at last made a desperate attempt to
awaken her old love. Hoping to melt her coldness
by arousing her former jealousy, he announced to her
that in accordance with Mussulman custom he was
about to take other wives. She listened to him with-
out saying a word. And the prince, convinced that
a rival beneath her own roof wouldrc-awaken all her old
passion, did in fact marry a second young and beautiful
But the Queen of the Crowns, while the musicians
were playing at the marriage-feast in the house of the
new bride, went before the Kadi and divorced herself
from her husband in the Mussulman manner, simply by
declaring that she was unhappy with him and wished
to return to her parents. That evening, when the
bride entered the house of the prince, the Queen of the
Crowns met her on the threshold.
" I give you the keys of my house," she said court-
eously to the new-comer. " Hereafter it is yours,
yours alone." And she went out through the gates and
returned to the house of her mother. The prince, who
still loved her, never saw her again.
" Their heart is in their pipes," she said one day,
speaking of men, and this saying was repeated through
all Teheran, accompanied by the laughter of the
It was she whom I saw standing in the bare room of
the hospital, and it seemed to me in that first glance
that her dark eyes and haughty lips expressed all the
sorrow of the world and all the pride with which it is
" What a bizarre house. No one here, not even a
djinn," she said.
" What do you seek, Khanoum ? " I asked, parting
the blankets that fell about the operating-table.
She looked at me intently. " It is you whom they
call Vadjih-el-Saltaneh ? "
" It is I, Khanoum."
" The very dogs, at this hour, have a shaded corner.
What mother gave you birth to such a life ? " she said
" My mother is far away, Khanoum, and believes
me happy. I pray that she may die believing it."
" Peace be with her, and may her shadow cover
you," she replied, touched. She sat beside me and said
that she had heard in the baths the story of my hus-
band's departure and my wound, and she had come to
say to me, " You are a stranger in this city where I have
my home and gardens. Come and share them with me."
The offer was made so simply that it was impossible
to reply that I did not know her.
" You will have my subterranean rooms, where you
may bathe in pools of fresh water," she added, to per-
suade me. The very words seemed like dew, in the
heat which was consuming me. " Come, I will take
you to the house of my mother, where I live."
" Are there men in your house ? "
" I have four brothers ; three of them have for a long
time lived in the biroun. The sight of them will never
offend you, Khanoum. The fourth is a child who still
lives in the indoroun with the women."
I still hesitated, but divining the cause of my doubts,
she said : " In inviting you to my house, I trample
beneath my feet the prejudices of my Mussulman faith.
I hope that you will do the same with the prejudices of
" Khanoum," I replied, " all of us, Christians and
Mussulmans, are the children of the same God, and the
prophets of all religions are — the prophets."
I said this in politeness, but while I was saying it I
felt that there might not be, after all, anything really
extraordinary in my being a guest in the house of a
Mussulman. Then I remembered that all that comes
to us is sent by the will of God, and thanking the Queen
of the Crowns I prepared myself to be presented to
An old porter, his arms folded upon his breast, bowed
respectfully before us, and opened the iron doors. I
found myself under the sombre arches which lead
beneath the biroun to the secluded inner gardens and
apartments of the indoroun of a sumptuous Persian
house. The queen invited me to mount a few steps,
and we emerged into the sunshine and scents of a large
garden murmurous with fountains.
A man ! Eternal God ! Had she then lied to me ?
" Khanoum," I stammered, faltering.
" Calm yourself, by Allah," she said to me. " It is
my little brother Nadir."
The child of whom she had spoken was a slender
young man of seventeen years, who lay stretched
on a couch. His beauty impressed me deeply. His
almond eyes, beneath sorrowful brows, shone like the
mystic eyes of a dervish. A bluish pallor softened the
ardent colour of his cheeks. He rose and saluted me
The Queen of the Crowns and I passed beneath the
colonnades that curved around three sides of the garden.
The floor beneath our feet, the wall of the house, and
the vaulted ceiling were a blaze of rich mosaics. On
the threshold of one of the many-arched doorways the
queen's mother, Envar-ed-Doule, waited to receive
me. She embraced me as though she were welcoming
a daughter ; a kindliness great enough to cover all the
world's sorrows and frailties was expressed in her
wrinkled face. Her first words were of her son Nadir.
" Alas, he is consumed by a fever as terrible as the
breath of the desert. For the first time in three weeks
he has left his bed, and he has done so in order to
welcome you to our house."
" Khanoum, I am a messenger of happiness," I
said to comfort her. " Your son will soon be well."
" The goodness of the All-Merciful is great as His
shadow upon us," she sighed. " May it be He Who
speaks through your mouth."
Indeed, from that day Nadir no longer kept to his
bed. His aspect was feverish, but he held himself
bravely on his feet. He thought no longer of death,
but dressed himself with care and joined us in our cool
underground retreats. He recited the verses of the
Koran, spoke to me of Mohammed, of the Temple of
Mecca, of the Miraculous Black Stone of Kaaba, and I
saw his desire to see me haloed with the light of the
His recovery was believed to be due to a magic force
which destiny had sent him in my person. I was the
idol of his mother, the fetish of all the family ; every
one called me " Asiz." *
When, hesitating to accept so much care and love
from this household, I spoke of returning to the hut in
which my husband had left me, the queen's mother
with tears begged me to stay. " The evil spirits will
again take possession of Nadir. He feels himself over-
powered, life has no taste on his lips, and everything
wearies him. Calm comes to him only when he hears
Carrying thus the good genius of Nadir, how could
I leave him to the cruelties of his evil one ? The
mother's zeal, which kept me always in the house,
exasperated the Queen of the Crowns, who liked to dis-
tract herself by visits to her friends, but I was content
in the spacious underground rooms in which we passed
In the evening, when every one else was sleeping on
little couches in the middle of the gardens, the queen
and I mounted to the roof where our rugs were spread.
The tops of trees encircled this vast bed, protecting
us from indiscreet eyes. The velvet of a star-brocaded
sky was our ceiling, the frogs in distant pools sang to us
a rustic chant often interrupted by the calls of owls.
It seemed to me then that all the earth was singing to
the stars, and that the scented air was the breath of
angels. Ah, nights of Persia, delicious and intoxicating
as wine cooled in snow, shall I ever know you again ?
At dawn, Nadir came to scatter on our cushions
armfuls of roses, whose thorns awakened us at our
slightest movement. Kneeling beside the couch he
would kiss tenderly the ends of my hair, while I lifted
my eyelids to give him the morning smile. Then the
queen and I descended into the garden to plunge into
a pool, and went back to our underground rooms where
the servants brought us tea.
Sick, feeble and tormented, my moods altered every
hour of the day. Sometimes I would laugh aloud,
listening to stories told by the queen, in which her
witty and ironical comments sparkled like jewels.
Again, I would lose myself in silence, thinking of my
master. Plunged in a black sadness I asked myself,
" Where is he ? Is he happy ? Will he come back
to me some day ? How could he have a heart that
would abandon me, who lived only for him ? "
And with my face hidden in my hands I fell upon the
cushions, refusing to eat or to drink, unable to reply
to questions except with my tears.
" Donia de rouze ast, the universe is two days," the
queen would say to me.
She meant that no sorrow is great because death
To divert me, the queen resumed the informal fetes
which made the hours of darkness gay. Our friends
came with their servants to pass the night by the edge
of our pools. The moon was the yellow lantern that
lighted the gardens. Under its beams the leaves of the
poplars became black and silver, the flowers lost their
colours, and the spray of the fountains was silver mist.
In our light robes, bleached by the magic light of the
colours of faded paintings, we lounged upon the grass.
We told little stories, we plunged naked into the pools
and played there, tossing handfuls of the sparkling
water at each other like showers of light. Shaking out
our long wet hair, we lay again on the grass. Some one
sang, another played the thar. And at dawn, after
having listened for a long time to the melancholy
voices of the singers, we fell asleep.
But between the old moon and the new our gardens
lost their light, and we suspended these nocturnal
fetes. In order to give me complete repose, the queen
left me for a few days in solitude.
The heat of the ground was like that of ovens.
Lying on mats, naked under a veil, I rested my fore-
head against a vase filled with grapes, where a few pieces
of ice drowned in water made me dream of cold unreal
lands. That heat ! What lover could give one such
languor, what embraces impose such submission ? The
kisses of the sun were more intoxicating than all the
kisses gathered in all the alcoves. I thought of my
grandmothers who devoted themselves to the adoration
of Ahouramazde. They knew, also, that no lover gave
more of ecstasy than the sun, none !
The voice of Tahia came to rouse me. " A messen-
ger wishes to speak to you, Khanoum."
I wrapped myself from head to foot. The messen-
ger entered, followed by several slaves carrying a sort
of pagoda covered with flowers.
" My master (here followed a multitude of titles,
ending with " Prince Sword-of-the-Empire ") would
like to present himself personally before Khanoum
(and he described me by a dozen titles among which I
recognized only Vadjih-el-Saltaneh). My master asks
that she deign to receive him to-morrow. My master
begs her humbly to accept these flowers, dust beneath
her feet, which he has himself gathered in the gardens
of his father (he named one of the late Shahs of Persia)."
I knew well that, by all Christian morality, I should
refuse to receive a stranger. I knew that I should reply
in words, postponing the visit to an indefinite time,
thus masking my refusal before his servants. But
I was weary in that garden alone. My mind was
languorous with dreams, my blood was warmed by the
caresses of the sun, and the masses of flowers made me
dizzy with their perfume. What crime would I com-
mit in receiving in a dignified manner so noble a prince,
who sent such pretty flowers ? I was only afraid of the
Christians. But they did not know where I lived, and
seeing this palanquin of flowers entering beneath
Mussulman portals they would be far from imagining
that it was I who was thus being tempted toward the
abysses of hell. They would be indifferent to the fall
of a Mussulman woman, they whose virtue would make
them cruelly punish, in the name of Christ, a Christian.
I had the courage to reply, " In the name of God,
say to your master that I obey his commands."
But I confess, my heart was beating quickly. It was
not at all my conjugal conscience that troubled me.
No. Was I not dismissed, as free as a freed slave ?
But a severe voice was saying to me : " What ! You,
daughter of priests and of the patriarchs, you will
to-morrow look into the eyes of a Mussulman, perhaps
hear the voice of a Mussulman speaking of love ? "
But another voice, much sweeter, without doubt
that of Satan, beguiled me to the sacrilege. Trem-
bling beneath my veils I saw the slaves set down the
flowers and follow the messenger from the gardens.
" Quick, Tahia, give me one by one these beautiful
flowers, that I may read the message he has sent ! "
One blood-red flower dominated all the others.
It was the rose of Assyria, the emblem of amorous
incantations, a flower that blooms for seven years. It
spoke to me of a heart filled with love. Then Tahia
gave me a bouquet of wild flowers which formed in
Arabic characters my name interlaced with his. I put
it against my cheek, and lying in the heaps of scented
petals I drifted into a vague dream.
My first movement on awaking was to press the
bouquet to my lips, plunging my face into it to inhale
all its perfume. A living thing moved beneath my
lips. Horror ! It was a monster that crept among
the flowers, crawling with innumerable legs.
" Tahia ! Tahia ! " I screamed, nearly fainting,
throwing the bouquet from me.
" May the universe fall upon our heads ! " she cried,
seeing the monster. She seized it with the tongs and
threw it into a brazier. " Permit me, Khanoum, to go
at once to ask the wise man Seied-ed-Dine to explain
this evil omen. Perhaps, by the power of the talis-
mans, he may be able to guard us against the danger."
" Go, Tahia, go at once ! "
She soon returned, riding into the garden on her
mule, and without waiting even to dismount she said,
" The Seied wishes more time to explain to us this
fearful omen. He is Soleiman himself," she added.
" He says that all the mysteries of the universe reflect
themselves in his spirit as the sky reflects itself in our
Toward evening the messenger of Seied-ed-Dine
arrived, bearing his reading of the omen. Destiny was
forewarning me of the fatal end of the love which was
soliciting mine. The person who sent those flowers
would never realize his hopes of winning me. Hasar-
payi, the thousand-legged creature (for so he is called,
though he has but forty) was the symbol of a woman
with a base soul and a perfidious heart. She would
wipe from his heart the image of me. The monster, of
a species that inhabit water, indicated that this woman
lived beyond the seas. She would be a Frenchwoman.
I commanded Tahia to keep silence upon this sub-
ject before the servants of Prince Sword-of-the-
Empire. For in spite of every decree of Fate I was
resolved to receive him the following day.
The sun was dying on the tree-tops when Prince
Sword-of-the-Empire arrived. He was a handsome
man who had seen about thirty years ; he was dashing,
gentle, melancholy. I received him fully veiled, so
that all he could see of me was a hint of curved brows,
the lines of shoulders and arms and my hands, whose
finger-tips were rosy with henna. Knowing that a well-
bred woman in conversation with a gentleman must not
say more than " yes " and " no," I did nothing but
repeat these words for two hours.
Under the pretext of reciting poetic stanzas upon
the flowers and the birds that surrounded me, he
addressed to me delicate tendernesses that affected me
like a drug. He departed, leaving me in a deep reverie.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, why didst thou not appear
before me then, with all thy temples and lighted
torches, to shield me from the delicious temptation
of my thoughts ?
The following morning Tahia announced the visit
of an old woman. She came in, soberly but richly
dressed in dark silks. Sitting on the cushions and look-
ing at me with bright eyes buried in wrinkles, she talked
for an hour upon different subjects. At last she asked
me if I were willing to marry a Mussulman, rich and of
high family, who would impose upon me merely the
outward forms of Islam.
I did not ask her of what Mussulman she spoke. The
idea of being torn to pieces by the Christians on my
marriage day turned my heart to ice.
" Never, Khanoum, never ! May God paralyse my
tongue ! How could I renounce even the forms of the
religion of my fathers ? For the love of the greatest
Padishah, I would not condemn myself in the other
world to the eternal clutches of Satan."
She saluted me respectfully and departed, downcast.
In spite of this reply, I received a letter from him.
Knowing that some day I must go to Europe to be
entirely cured of my wound, he said that he was
d.s. 143 K
departing to await me in those lands where " The
prophets do not hinder mortals from loving each other."
(Thus he spoke to me of the Occident, which does not
know even the meaning of the word " love " !) In
fact, he soon left Persia to go to Paris.
This adventure was something with which to amuse
the queen when she returned. Like all the women of
the indorouns, she loved the intrigues of love, and she
was in despair to see this romance so quickly ended.
" Why did he mix the wretched prophets with his
love ? " she said, shrugging her shoulders. " Our souls
are theirs ; our hearts are our own."
I listened in silence. Such words troubled my
Christian faith, in which love, the soul, the heart, the
body — all are lost in the one word " God," which
paralysed all my human emotions.
" I would have made my house a nest for your love,"
she continued, lamenting. " I would have hidden you
so well from the indiscreet that Allah himself would not
have been able to discover you. Only my eyes would
have contemplated you. Oh, of what beauty you have
deprived my eyes ! "
And she began to tell me the story of the birth of
Prince Sword-of-the-Empire. It was not known who
was his father or his mother. Without doubt he was
the son of one of the sixty princesses of the indoroun of
Padi-Shah. In any case, the Book of Gold in which
the grand eunuch registers the loves of the Shah and
the names of the women honoured by his visits attri-
buted him to one who was called his mother.
" But then, is she not his mother ? "
" No, she is sterile, the whole city knows it. Her
situation in the palace was delicate. She was obliged
to have a son at all costs. She feigned to be pregnant
during the months. At the end of that time, accord-
ing to custom, all the princesses were gathered about
her bed to witness the birth of the child, when an old
midwife entered, carrying two baskets. She offered
to the princesses one of the baskets, asking each to
choose an herb with which to perfume the bath of the
new-born. The first who put in her fingers shrieked ;
two snakes had seized her hand. She shook them off
upon the floor and fled, followed by all the others,
" The old woman then brought from the other
basket the child, stupefied with opium, and gave it to
the princess in bed. When she had killed the snakes
she called back the princesses, and nothing remained
for them but to congratulate the mother. The grand
eunuch had every interest in certifying to Padi-Shah
the royal origin of the child. Prostrating himself on
his stomach before the throne, he announced the joyful
news and wished the Shah as many offspring as there
are stars, and he received the gift of a garment from the
This was, according to rumour, the origin of Sword-
I remained a long time lying upon my cushions,
reflecting upon the blind mazes of this life, in which
there are so many paths all leading to unknown ends.
And, I confess it, I was melancholy when I remembered
the prophecy of Scied-cd-Dinc and reflected that per-
haps already, in the unimaginably beautiful gardens of
an indoroun in Paris, the prince was sitting with the
woman who had wiped his image from my heart.
It happened, many years later, that we did meet in
Paris. At the time when I received him in the gardens
of the queen, he had a concubine who had blessed him
with a son. He took this woman and their child with
him to Paris, in order to give his son, Emerald, a Euro-
pean education. But when he reached Paris, before
he had even left the station, a Frenchwoman ap-
proached him and said that for three days she had had
nothing to eat ; dying of hunger, she begged him to
As a good Mussulman, he could not refuse charity to
the poor, his brothers. He told his concubine what
the woman had said, and both were astonished to learn
that such misfortune could befall anyone in this most
splendid city of the world. The Persian woman, deeply
affected, wept and clasped the woman in her arms,
saying that Allah was good to allow them to begin their
life in a foreign land by an act of charity. The stranger
was at once invited to share their dinner. Afterwards
they would themselves have taken her to her own
door, but to their amazement they learned that she
had no home. Therefore they kept her in their hotel.
The next morning she offered herself to them as a
governess for their son, and in three days she had
replaced the concubine, who was sent back to Persia.
The Frenchwoman even tried to persuade the prince
to give her conjugal honours, but here she found an
unexpected resistance. However, without waiting for
such formalities, she ordered the concierge to speak of
her as Princess Sword-of-the-Empire.
I called upon them one day and found them in a
garret, where she was teaching him French economy,
finding his way of living too wasteful for his little means.
The Princess Sword-of-the-Empire was washing dishes,
the little Prince Emerald was sweeping the floor, and
the Prince himself was rocking a cradle in which were
twins. I tried to conceal the pain I felt at rinding this
prince of Persian legend in a setting so little legendary.
He found it necessary to excuse himself.
" Yes, Khanoum," he said to me, " life is a black
abyss. By threatening to commit suicide, she has
destroyed me. You know the heart of a Persian ; I am
And even I, alas ! had not saved myself from the cruel
fate of the dreamers of Asia lost in the harshness of the
Occident. If I escape it for a few rare instants, it is
my cymbals and my tambourine that evoke for me again
the gardens and the dreams of my East.
Could the wise man Seied-ed-Dine have foretold to
me, while I lay on the queen's scented cushions, the
ending of my own romance ! But the knowledge
would have been only a serpent among the flowers, for
no one can alter the mysterious writings of Destiny.
We were invited, the queen and I, to spend an even-
ing at the home of Khanoum Zchir.
" Bahman-Mirza, the brother of Zchir," the queen
told me, " has been the confidant of Prince Sword-of-
the-Empire. Having had his ears filled with the sound
of your praises, he himself feels amorous toward you,
and aspires only to sec you, though it be through the
windows of the indoroun. Allow me to beautify you,
and we shall be amused." This pleasantry seemed to
me an interesting change from the monotony in which
" Come, I will make you as beautiful as the morning
star," said the queen, commanding the servants to
bring pastes, paints and perfumes. I was docile. A
white unguent covered my paleness, my cheeks were
transformed into two vermilion apples, a layer of surma
united into one black arc my two eyebrows. On my
forehead a few painted stars made me resemble a star-
lit night ; golden powder on my hair imitated the
" Now you are dazzling," said the queen, holding
a mirror before me.
" God All Powerful ! " I cried. " What horror ! "
A vicious and powerful face looked at me from the
glass. It was like the Persian images of Zeleikha in
anger complaining of Joseph to Pharaoh. I was over-
come ; the very sight of it terrified me. But there
was nothing to do ; the paint was of the best, and would
defy water and oil for weeks. I must present myself
under this mask. The most striking of all were my
eyes ; they were those of an enraged tigress.
" What is, must be," I said, shrugging. " Let us go
thus to charm your Bahman ! " At least, no one could
think that I was committing the sin of showing my face
to a Mussulman.
At the house of Zehir we found in a bouquet all the
young women painted thus, in the traditional fashion
for grand fetes. I did not see Bahman, but without
doubt his eyes followed each of my gestures from
behind curtains or through the glass dome of the halls.
And we could only suppose that he had not been dis-
appointed, for our idle life was for a long time enlivened
by his letters.
An old seller of oranges brought them, and to divert
all suspicion she often changed her occupation, bring-
ing one day rare embroideries, another day gold laces,
in which we always found, carefully hidden, his messages.
" To love is to be intoxicated by the wine of eter-
nity," he would write, quoting the Persian poets.
" To give oneself to love is to find salvation, to know
oneself and to die. But thou wilt say, to know me is
to know immortality."
Little by little these letters, delicately passionate,
became a need to me. Each morning I awaited with
impatience the arrival of the old woman who brought
them. Fearing to lose his respect by replying to them,
I answered only by symbolic signs, by a flower or a bird
in an enamelled cage. But what is required to nourish
a passion ?
" Oh, that I might lie upon your path," said another
quatrain. " That you might walk upon my eyeballs !
But I fear lest my lashes should wound your feet."
Growing more and more impatient, he sent me one
day the verses of Hafiz, " Who was the happy one who
gathered the flowers and fruits of thy garden ? "
Timid and fearful, I did not dare to see him.
" I consume myself," his feverish writing told me one
day. " Too late thou wilt lean toward me, and like
Cyprus dying, I will say to thee, ' Leave me ; already
the circle blurs before my eyes ; fire, earth and water
arc one.' "
Zchir came one day to tell me that her brother was
gravely ill. She did not dare to say more. After she
had gone, the queen handed me a little portrait. " It
is he," she said.
On that circle of ivory framed in jewels I saw him
for the first time. His eyes begged me for caresses.
No, I had not the courage to accept the love of a
The queen alone knew my weakness when at night
I tried to smother my sighs, and when in the mornings,
tottering, I clung to the trees, my hands feverish and
my throat choked with sobs. However, when she
urged me to accept the love of Bahman I replied
obstinately, " Never ! Never ! O my fathers ! O
' Heaven ! "
On the verge of death, he was taken to the moun-
tains. I sent him the gift which should keep me for
ever in his memory — a young eunuch.
What would I not give to-day, to be offered such a
beautiful love ! But beneath the noonday sun who
can recover the rosy morning ?
Yet I confess that these temptations which my Chris-
tian conscience resisted made a part of the charm of our
indoroun life. The other half of that charm was in the
complete liberty with which we played behind those
walls apparently so imprisoning. After the grave
atmosphere of the house of my father-in-law Assatour-
Khan, the house of Envar-ed-Doule, the queen's
mother, was a paradise of freedom and gaiety. Among
the cushions, the flowers and the perfumes, the capri-
cious Persian girls seemed spoiled children. For us
Christians such joys were tasted only on days of betro-
thals or weddings. I remembered how I had offended
all the elderly women of my husband's family by cutting
a rose to bloom on my gown. It was so beautiful on
the black velvet heavily embroidered with gold ! But
beneath the austere glances of the three ancient ladies
I had felt that I wore on my breast all the vice of the
world. Tearing it off, confused, I had thrown it into
the pond where, drowning among the water-lilies, it
had a less sinful look than among the roses of gold on
Beneath the same Persian sky, in the same walled
gardens, among the Christians every one languished,
every one sighed ; among the Persians everyone laughed
and sang. The brooks were more sparkling, the foot-
paths whiter, the shadows bluer, the groves more
perfumed. Men did not walk here with the stern
majesty of King Saul and King Nebuchadnezzar. Here
were no grandmothers who returned from Mass after
having eaten the body of Christ, to freeze with their
cold glances the careless mirth of the young.
All-merciful Father, what beautiful impulses, what
beautiful loves are murdered in those Christian gardens !
The imprint of austerity must remain upon us even in
our alcoves, even in the arms of our husbands. Loved
and loving, we should commit a sin in expressing with
gestures or words our tenderness. And this modesty,
the unpitying reserve of patriarchal etiquette, froze in
a few weeks of marriage all our springtime dreams. Oh,
the cruel etiquette, to which all must submit, even the
woman who is bearing a child ! Surrounded, according
to our custom, by the eldest of the elders, she must
become a mother without one sigh or one groan. It is
thus that the weak and ardent Armenian women arc
disciplined, in order to make of them the martyr-
mothers who, by the order of Turkish officers, will throw
themselves into the Euphrates after seeing the murder
of their husbands and the mangling of their children.
Instead of blaspheming their God, turned thus into a
bloody idol for them, they will die crossing themselves,
denying neither the Cross nor their Saviour. They
try to be strong enough even to smile at death
and to be happy thus to redeem the sins of the
Dear mothers of Armenia, it would be better for you
if you had never known our Eastern Christ. More
practical than we, the Occident has known how to
express His sublime messages to men in such a way that
they are heard with impunity. Let us regret that at
the time of the grandeur of the infallible Popes, our
fathers did not consent to submit to the power of Rome.
Armed against the sublime words of Christ by the Holy
Inquisition, by the auto-da-fe, by the indulgence and
other safeguards, we Armenians would not have been
reduced in a few centuries of fanatic Christianity from
thirty millions of prosperous people to three millions of
I ask myself why the Europeans, in order to conquer
Asia, use powder and cannon, when by easily exploiting
Oriental fanaticism a handful of Occidental Christians
could make, without spilling one drop of blood, more
conquests than their thousand merciless armies by land
Among the Persians I breathed at last with all my
lungs. It seemed to me often that I had come from a
dark, cold palace into a peaceful and charming garden
warmed by the sun. There was no etiquette to observe,
no men among the women. We were free, to go about
in light garments, to bathe in the ponds, to gather
flowers, to play the thar, sing, laugh, go to town or to
the summer gardens — always, of course, veiled in the
street and accompanied by old nurses. Persian women
were absolute queens in their homes, and if it happened
by chance that we met the men beneath the arches of
the common entrance, it was for them to make way in
order not to hinder us.
I really do not understand the cause of the error,
common among Europeans, of believing that the Asiatic
woman is a slave. To be the slave of tradition and of
love is another thing ; what is more beautiful than
fiercely to cast aside one's will in order to submit to a
beloved being ? Did not Mary Magdalen gladly make
herself the slave of Christ ? And has there been in the
world a more queen-like woman than that great cour-
tesan of Magdala ? As for the position of the Oriental
woman before the law, one can only regret that that of
the Occidental woman is so inferior. I advise feminists
to borrow a few precepts of Mohammed concerning the
rights of women. Protected by these precepts, the
condition of the European woman, slave to her husband
and to his laws, would be much improved.
I have said that we were absolute queens in our gar-
dens. The men could not enter them save when Envar-
ed-Doule invited them ; we retired then into our
underground rooms. If the guests interested us we
mounted by ladders to the skylights, and there we
criticized, mockingly or admiringly, their appearance,
conversation and manners.
The house of Envar-ed-Doule, like all great houses of
the Orient, was filled with poor old men and women,
relatives or strangers picked up by charity from the
bazaars. The Orientals, having no courts nor laws
which impose upon society by force a sentiment of
humanity toward the weak and the abandoned, are
generous by nature and by tradition. Thus one never
finds in our country women left starving by their hus-
bands and young girls thrown upon the streets by base
lovers, as in the Occident. The people immediately
bring help to such unfortunates, and their offenders,
morally stoned by Asiatic society, lead the existence
of outcasts without any hope and die in misery and
The women thus taken into a household never abuse
the generosity of those who befriend them, because the
conscience which directs everything in the Orient is
infinitely superior to the respect for law which controls
the Occident, especially since this respect must be for
laws that are very indulgent to the unscrupulous. I
have often admired, quite sincerely, the solidarity with
which men of the Occident unite to defend one of their
number against a woman whom he has wronged. This
kind of comradeship is still unknown in our savage
countries ; like all primitive peoples, we have a different
sense of justice.
The old women sheltered beneath the roof of Envar-
ed-Doule, far from oppressing our youth as do the
Christian elders, made way for us like old leaves before
the new. They squatted comfortably on wooden
benches, to protect themselves from little snakes, and
warmed themselves beneath the sun through long idle
hours. When they wished distraction they came down
to us, and in the shade of our vaults, smoking the
odorous kalian, they would revive for us their pic-
turesque pasts, sharing with us all the wisdom they had
acquired in a long life.
When the loves of a horrible old woman, paralysed,
bent, half-blind, nearly deaf, seemed to us too beautiful
to be believed, she brought out to us the proofs. There
were old letters, ardent and romantic, in which the old
woman was addressed as a rose, as a doe, as a singing
bird. She herself, chuckling in her withered throat,
was the first to mock the changes which time has in
reserve for us all. Leaning over the yellowed pages, we
laughed at the ardour of the lover who had compared
her to the moon, and sighed when she told us that she
had seen his whitened bones which the jackals had dug
from beneath a slab in the cemetery. But soon, dis-
tracted by other letters and other hyperboles, we forgot
hideous death which watched us, and laughed gaily.
" Some day, my beautiful Khanoums," she said
indulgently, " your grandchildren will mock you also
when some one tells them that your eyes were like
comets and your hair the shadows of night."
Indeed, nothing was impossible, if it were true that
this hideous ruin had in other days maddened her
masters, reigned in their harems, and left them weeping
when, seized by a passion for a wandering dervish, she
had abandoned everything to follow him and to tempt
the human heart of the divine fakir.
" And did you really seduce him ? " asked the queen.
" Such was the will of Allah," piously replied the old
woman. " In His wisdom, He has created seduction so
that even divine fakirs must humble themselves before
" And did you hold him for a long time ? "
" Alas, he was a wanderer ! How could I nail him
to one spot for more than a day ? I remember that
day in the desert ; the sun was torrid, the sands were
golden. We were happy, oh, so happy ! But the fresh-
ness of the night awakened him from the dream, and
terrified he fled toward the Arabian Sea, to wipe out his
sin by the penitence of the great Imams."
" It is to avenge that unhappy man that Allah has
punished you by bending your back double," said the
queen severely. She was grieved by the downfall of
the saintly fakir.
" By penitence he will acquire in the celestial gardens
a better place than he would have won before his fall,"
replied the old woman with sincere conviction. " As
for my hump, the Merciful One has punished me for
having once stolen the grace of his winged houris. Too
many ardent arms embraced me in those days when I,
intoxicated with the hours Allah had given me in which
to be happy, displayed my body in lascivious dances."
" Go, vile Djende ! " said the queen with repug-
" Praise to the Prophet Ali and to Saint Hossein, that
shameful name is no longer mine," answered the old
woman. " Barefooted, I made pilgrimage to Mecca
and to Medine. Prostrated, crawling like a reptile, I
dragged my unworthy body toward the sacred places.
These eyes have been lifted to the black hyacinths of
holy Kaaba. Praise to the celestial Fatima ! for a long
time I have been Hadji-Khanoum, and the gates of
Paradise will open to me more easily than to you.
Allah is great, and His mercy is infinite." And, bent
double, supporting herself on her short crutches, this
old sinner went away like a four-legged animal, exalted
in our eyes by her limitless faith in the Divine mercy.
This Hadji-Khanoum did nothing in the house of
Envar-ed-Doule. But her companions were not use-
less. From them one learned the recipes of ancient
medicines, through them were completed the legends
of which part had been forgotten, from their lips one
learned by heart the songs of the old wandering singers,
the songs of marriage and the funeral lamentations.
It was they who taught the weavers the antique
arabesques. They were also charged with rinding con-
cubines for the sons of Envar-ed-Doule, and with over-
seeing the innumerable children of the young servants
in the farmyard where they lived among the hens and
chicks. It was a joy to me to see them, those little naked
children struggling with each other to suckle at the
breasts of a soft-eyed doe which, with the impassiveness
of a veritable mother, walked among them ready to
nourish them at no matter what hour.
Wise mistress of a large house, Envar-ed-Doule gave
to every one full liberty, and gratitude for her confidence
established a happy order everywhere. The young
listened without any rebellion to the advice of their
elders. Only in complicated situations was the mistress
of the house consulted. Then, after listening to every
one concerned and taking counsel with the old women,
Envar-ed-Doule solemnly reprimanded whoever had
troubled the harmony of the common life.
There was only one person who destroyed our tran-
quillity and sowed anguish in the heart of the queen's
mother. This was the little Suhun, former servant of
the queen, now become the concubine of Prince Zelil,
the second son of Envar-ed-Doule.
This little servant, who had for beauty only her large
eyes, ardent and proud, had bewitched Zelil with a
glance when one day he found her washing the queen's
feet with her small henna-stained hands.
Allured by the beautiful eyes of the little maid,
Zelil tried vainly to unveil her. For only an instant the
long red veil which covered her from eyes to ankle
fluttered apart, and Zelil was blinded by the immaculate
whiteness of a young throat which showed through a
light tunic. He tried to embrace her, but she evaded
him, with a tinkling of silver bracelets.
" For whom do you keep this flowery garden ? "
Zelil said to her.
" For my master, for my beloved," she replied.
" And who is your master ? " he demanded^ trembling
" Only he who will take me, never again to abandon
" I am he, then ! " cried Zelil.
He went at once to his sister the queen, and said,
" Sister, go tell our venerable mother that I am twenty
years old, that her house has need of posterity, and that,
submitting to the will of Allah and my destiny, I take
as my concubine your servant Suhun."
" May Heaven vomit flames upon my head ! " cried
the terrified queen. " May my soul become a torch in
the black palace of Azerahil, if she is not a leper, my
brother. What delights could you know in such
arms ? "
" Suhun shall be mine ! " replied Zelil obstinately,
seeing only that his sister wished to keep her servant
In vain the whole family set themselves against Suhun
and this concubinage. Zelil refused to listen, demand-
ing Suhun. At last, seeing that he would neither eat
nor drink, and that he was wasting with a fever which
nothing else would cure, Envar-ed-Doule commanded
that the little Suhun should be led from the queen's
apartments to those of Zelil.
Just at midnight Suhun was placed in his impatient
arms. According to the modesty of Persian marriages,
the bride does not unveil herself. Respecting the little
Suhun's bashfulness, and intoxicated by the touch of
those little arms covered with bracelets that clasped his
neck, Zelil did not uncover her face. Only at dawn did
he unveil his beloved.
Horror ! A face hideously ravaged by deep healed
scars tried to smile at him, but this smile seemed to him
the grimace of a sorceress. Horrible cries awakened the
household. They were the cries of Zelil, who fled to
From that night, Suhun was banished from his pre-
sence. But Allah had blessed her, and she was the
mother of Zelil's male child. According to custom, her
maternity gave Suhun a high place in the household.
The child was loved and petted as the first grandchild
of the family. Son of a servant, he nevertheless bore
the name of his father, and inherited his wealth. The
Mussulmans never despise, in any circumstances, the
fruit of love, and are deeply horrified to learn that in
the Occident the Christian peoples treat with cruelty
those innocent children who are born of parents who
have not placed on a piece of paper, in church or court,
the proper number of signatures.
But Suhun began to command the household like a
veritable little tyrant, forcing all desires to yield before
hers. Nor was it only ambition that tormented her
wilful nature. She loved Zelil with all her soul, and
banished from his apartments she watched day and
night at their door to prevent another pretty servant
from taking a place by his side. From her misery and
her jealousy came all the troubles that afflicted the
peaceful house of Envar-ed-Doulc. The fury of the
little Suhun in the quarrels which broke forth around
D.S. I59 L
her shocked us all. Enraged, she knew how to wound
not only all the seraglio, but even the venerable Envar-
The other women had only one means of subduing
her. It was to remind her that she was a leper. Then
abruptly Suhun would become silent. Shrinking like a
dog cruelly beaten, she would slip into a corner of the
garden, and soon her shrieks and her prayers pierced our
hearts. The evening fell, the moon rose, and still one
heard her cries and her petitions to Allah, until madness
took hold of her. Then she beat herself against the
tree, tearing her hair and shrieking. Finally she fell on
the grass and lay still, clutching her head between her
Pitifully, I would go toward her. Veiled thus, her
young and graceful body was beautiful. " Suhun,
Suhun," I said, to rouse her from her stupor. She lay .
still. " Suhun," I said tenderly, kneeling beside her to
put my hand on her poor head. Abruptly she rose,
and prostrating herself before me laid her head upon
my knees, trembling without weeping, because she
found her sorrows understood.
Or sometimes, although he abhorred her, Zelil him-
self went to find her in these hours of hopeless revolt
against Destiny, and standing at a distance with his
arms folded he commanded her in a dry and authorita-
tive tone to go to her child. When, seeing even in
these words a little remembrance of their love, Suhun
rose and passed before him, humble, with her head
bowed, he said, " Tempt not the patience of Allah !
Other women walk on bare feet to Mecca and to Medine
to implore the holy Imams to bless them with posterity.
I have given you a child. What more must you have r "
Leaning against a tree she began again to weep, and
Zelil angrily left her.
To distract ourselves from this tragedy, we were glad
to listen to the gossip of a young seller of brocades. He
rode into the garden solemnly seated upon a donkey
with henna-dyed hoofs, which walked to the tinkling of
innumerable silver ornaments. The donkey shared the
dressed-up air of his master, who smiled down upon us
as though he were a bringer of precious gifts from the
days of Shah-Abbas. While, according to his custom,
he washed his .hands at the edge of one of our pools, his
servant spread out a carpet and placed upon it the pack-
ages of goods, wrapped in silks.
Talking of the good weather, of our health, and of the
rareness of beautiful things, the merchant took his
place upon the carpet. After drinking a cup of tea
offered by our servant and invoking many times the
names of Allah, Hossein, Ali and all the Imams, he
began slowly to display his merchandise. We learned
that Azerbaijan had the year before been ravaged by an
epidemic, that the roads of Mazandaran were overrun
by the ferocious Baktiaris tribes, that for the next year
we would have no more Afghan silks, that the shawls
made at Bokhara since the invasion of the Muscovites
were not as valuable as his, which dated from the time
of the independent Emirs. He showed us also a few
rare skins from Daghestan, and some precious merchan-
dise from over-seas. By chance, he pulled from his
pocket a magnificent amber necklace, which delighted
the whole indoroun. With the greatest mystery he
confided to us that it was a necklace which the Tartar
princess of Kurdamir had given him in exchange for a
magic veil which the beautiful Tartarian used to disguise
herself from her old husband in order to meet her lover.
Finally, with a mysterious air, he reached toward the
last package, and, rising to his feet, dazzled us with his
mauve, blue, red and yellow brocades. The golden
designs lost themselves amid arabesques of all colours,
and the harmonious richness of that iridescence en-
chanted us like an old garden under the setting sun.
" Yesterday Khanoum Rogbet-es-Saltaneh bought a
brocade like this for the marriage of her daughter,
Dorreth-el-Molk," he said in an indifferent tone.
"Ya Allah!" cried Envar-ed-Doule. " She is
married at last, that little obstinate ! I believed her
lost to the world, like all those who go to get learning
in the Christian convents of Teheran."
" Why ? " I asked, surprised.
" Following the example of the Christian nuns, who
dedicate their virginity to the Prophet Messiah, that
little Dorreth wished to dedicate hers to our Holy
Prophet. As if in truth the Holy Prophet needed this
virginity, not having enough with the winged houri and
the silver-footed peri ! "
As a Christian, I felt that I must protest against these
light remarks upon the perpetual chastity of our con-
" Khanoum," I said very respectfully, " may the
celestial Imams tear out my tongue, and Saint Fatima
change into flames all my veils, if I offend by reflections
unworthy of the sublime verses of the Alcoran. Let us
admit that our Christ has no need of the virginity of
our nuns, nor even that of our monks. But is it just
that according to the Alcoran — eternal rain of pearls
and diamonds be upon it ! — is it just that the entrance
to your mosques should be reserved only to the men ?
For, in order to pray there, woman must purify herself
for three days and nights, while man by a simple ablu-
tion is rendered chaste. And as, thanks to Allah, all the
good Mussulmans do not deprive themselves of the
society of their faithful wives for so long as three days
and three nights, one can hardly ever see in the sacred
places the pious Mussulman women. Indeed, Kha-
noum, that seems to us as singular as our perpetual
chastity seems to you."
" May the Prophet Ali preserve the verses of the
Alcoran from our unworthy judgments," Envar-ed-
Doule replied gravely, and to change the subject she
bought a beautiful brocade.
The visit of the merchant being ended, we all helped
to fold up the marvellous fabrics.
" To-morrow Padi-Shah gives an audience at the
Dar-Bar palace," said the merchant, to show that he
was not at all ignorant of affairs in high places. " And
Shahzade, pardoned for intriguing against the Shah to
obtain the throne, will be there."
" What has become of his old Franguian princess ? "
" She had been persuaded to go from Persia into
The French princess of whom they spoke was an
adventuress, a member of a great European family.
Wearying of everything and dying of boredom in her
own country, she undertook journeys in Persia, and at
the head of a caravan she had visited the historic ruins
in the farthest corners of the country. But it was the
burlesque adventures on the highway and in the caravan-
series, the pillaging, the fears of assassination, the
menaces of the camel-drivers and the quarrels with the
muleteers, which delighted her. And at last, enchant-
ment ! she discovered in an old abandoned garden a
beautiful palace, Tchehel-Aine (Forty Mirrors) and
amid the Forty Mirrors — a prince, a young prince !
Blond as the sun and pale as the moon, this young
prince languished toward death, despairing of a fairy
liberator who would take him from the exile in which
he lived, far from the palace of his great fathers. He
was, by law of birth, the heir to the throne of the Persian
kings ; but the rebel vizirs, having changed the laws of
his country, had exiled him in this palace at the borders
of the kingdom of Iran. For months, within these
dilapidated walls, the young prince had been consum-
ing himself with boredom and wounded pride. That is
why he recognized beneath the tailor-made costume- of
this Franguian princess the golden wings of his houri.
He pardoned the somewhat ripe age of the princess and
submitted docilely to the strokes of her magic wand.
The Frenchwoman, believing herself transported by
this marvellous encounter into the realm of the Thou-
sand and One Nights, lost all idea of reality, and clasp-
ing Shahzade in her arms she promised to make him
king of the Persians, on the modest condition that he
would place on her head the crown of the ancient queens
of Iran. Love united the royal dream of Shahzade
with the ambitious fancy of the princess, and they
prepared a revolution in the Kingdom of Roses.
The adventuress equipped at her own cost a few
hundred savage mountaineers, who gathered to them-
selves other bandits armed with daggers and clubs.
This army, beneath the banners of the young Shahzade,
set out toward Teheran. Appearing with the sound of
ancient trumpets and warrior cymbals beneath the
peaceful walls of the cities, Shahzade and his consort
conquered them without shedding a drop of blood.
Even Kasvinh surrendered, and the victorious army
approached the yellow walls of Teheran. Finding the
gates of this city closed, Shahzade and his princess
camped beneath silken tents to await events.
The following day, when the sun had hardly risen
above the horizon, a courageous herald appeared before
the prince to announce that a price had been set on his
head in the capital of Persia. Messenger of bad news,
the herald was immediately nailed against the walls with
pikes. Shahzade, discouraged, declared to the princess
that he was ready to renounce the throne. But the
valiant Frenchwoman called him a coward and an-
nounced that she would go alone into Teheran to
force the authorities to surrender the city to her beauti-
ful prince under threat of a siege. A European, she
believed herself quite safe, being persuaded that all
the powers of Europe would unite to punish miserable
Persia for having dared to oppose her, a woman of the
highest French families.
Alas ! The general of the Persian army was at that
time an Armenian, Efrem. He was a grave, sober man,
and did not in the least like such jokes. He commanded
the princess to relieve Persia of her presence in forty-
eight hours, exactly. If she were in the country after
that time, she would be shot by his serbaz. The prin-
cess paled, cursed all the Armenians of the world, and
without even saying adieu to her Prince of the Thou-
sand and One Nights, she fled from Persia.
Peacefully sitting upon the carpet between the Queen
of the Crowns and Envar-ed-Doulc, could I suppose
that one day in Paris I would be invited, as a Persian
dancer, to an Oriental fete which this same princess was
giving in a splendid hotel ? But heavens, what singular
meetings have I not experienced in this world that once
seemed to me so large !
As for Shahzade, the merchant informed us that after
the departure of the Frenchwoman he had entered
Teheran, submitting and pardoned, and that he was
now living in the palace of the young Shah.
Curious to see him, I asked the queen to request her
brothers to have me invited to the audience in the
The following day at an early hour I was in a corner
of the royal gardens reserved for the guests.
Like all Persian houses, the palace of the Shah opened
its facade to the garden, one of those open gardens at
the same time sunny and melancholy, perfumed to
giddiness by the roses and peopled by large peacocks
with many-coloured tails ; one of those sleeping gardens
where, soothed by the warm sun, one dreams of sweet
caresses, of slow, slow joys, and of the limpid music of
thars. Before our eyes rose the wall of the palace, a
lacework of ebony, with its rose-windows jewels of a
thousand colours, its arabesques of gold, and a panel
opening into the interior. Through this opening we
saw an arm-chair of gold, and a cushion embroidered
The vizir of Dar-Bar announced to us the approach
of the Shah. The guests bowed before the name, and
at the same instant a voice like that of the muezzin began
to chant his annals. The most glorious names of
antiquity, accompanied by hierarchic synonyms from
the Book of Kings, resounded in our ears. The distant
gigantic shadows of Cyrus, Cambyses, Guistasp, covered
with a cloak of glory the shoulders of this little King of
Persia. All weak and pale as he appeared, the power of
those splendid kings awakened in me the awe I had felt
before the epic pages of Ferdousi.
Upon his astrakhan cap a lion of diamonds with a
mane of white aigrettes lifted ferociously a curved sword
to defend the golden sun that rose above the forehead
of the young king. Beneath these arms of heathen
Persia two large melancholy eyes seemed to wonder at
all that passed below on the garden pavement. He
seemed like one awakened from a heavy sleep to see,
surprised, the specimens of new peoples come from all
the corners of the earth to parade before him. Instead
of envoys from the Mongol Tsars of Kazan, of Baktehi-
Serail, instead of Tartarian Khans from Shamahka and
Badkoube, kings of Hindustan and Samarkand, Emirs of
Afghan, of Boukhara, princes of Armenia, of Medinc
and of Syria, here were ambassadors from France,
England, Italy, Germany and America who passed
before him. Proud and phlegmatic, these ambassadors
hardly saluted him at all. They little resembled those
of other times who prostrated themselves before the
feet of the great kings of Persia as if before the
The young Shah had at his right his younger brother,
the heir ; at his left stood Shahzade, to whom he
addressed from time to time a gracious word. Stand-
ing behind this throne which he had disputed with the
king, Shahzade, pale and bitter, tried to mask his bleed-
ing pride with forced smiles. Below, on the pavement
of the garden, the ambassadors filed past slowly, with
the wearied manner of those compelled to play a useless
comedy under the burning sun.
Here are the Chinese, little buddhas in wax, with the
indefinable smile of idols ; the Japanese with eyes which
see everything and reflect nothing in their pupils ; the
Turks in German uniform with Asiatic head-dress.
Sensuous and vain, they seem to wish to hide beneath
the assurance of the newly- rich their surprise at finding
themselves in civilized society. Here are their masters,
the Germans, heavy and authoritative, mercilessly com-
pressed in their gold-laced coats. Here are the English
with their mysterious smile ; they pass, their eyes nearly
closed. Beneath their tall, proud head-dress they are
splendid. Here, the French, elegant, natural, always
smiling, with large gestures. The Americans with their
manner of sailors awkward on dry land. And finally
the Russians in their rich, heavily ostentatious dress.
They seemed to parade their power as invaders of this
country where the mosques and the ancient palaces
served them as stables and barracks. Half -Asiatic, half-
European, tormented in their vast bleak steppes by one
eternal nostalgia, they poured from Tibet to the Baltic,
and we believed them destined some day to dominate
I returned from this audience wearied by so many
impressions. A cold bath in a pool of clear water
refreshed me. During this bath I learned from the
servants, who were also bathing to keep me company,
that I had still another fete to see through the skylight
of our underground apartments. That very evening
the brothers of the queen, the Princes Kemal, Abou-
bekir and Zelil, were to receive in the garden of their
biroun a company of young mutrubes. 1 It was the
little Suhun who was charged with all the care of their
Khanoum Envar-ed-Doule did not like her sons to
be away from the house at night, but in order not to
deprive them of pleasure she authorized them from time
to time to amuse themselves in her house. They
invited there for a day or two their friends among the
courtesans of Teheran.
Envar-cd-Doule had serious reasons for such
indulgence. The times were tumultuous. Since the
Russian invasion there was no security anywhere,
neither for goods nor life. The Russians practised
faithfully their saying, Ya Tsar, Yai Bog (I am Tsar,
therefore your God).
One day, tired of walking, I sat by the side of the
road with my old Tahia. A peasant in rags was passing,
carrying two fowls to sell in the city. Two Cossacks
appeared upon the same road. One of them approached
the peasant, and taking the fowls continued on his way
without saying a word. The peasant meditated a
moment, then turned and went sorrowfully back
toward his village. Aroused by this mute scene, I
" Why has he taken your fowls ? " I asked him.
He regarded me with astonishment. " Why, to
cook and eat them."
" But will he not pay for them ? "
He looked at me with as much astonishment as
though he had seen me fall from the sky. " Pay for
them ? He is a Russian ! "
Everything was told in that. Not only by Russian
minds, but also by Persian, it was believed that the
Russians had been created by the good God to take
everything without in any way paying for it. The
Persians, least of all masters of their own country, had
at this time to support all the claims of the savage tribes
within it. In the general chaos each claimed his citi-
zen's rights, that is to say, did not allow others to have
theirs. From this resulted the cynical abuse of the
words " liberty " and " fraternity." Each man got rid
of his enemy by the blow of a dagger in the back, and
men fraternized easily for pillage and assassinations upon
In these conditions, to venture out of the house at
night, even for sentimental purposes, was truly danger-
ous. To avoid such risks, most of the Persians trans-
formed their sober birouns into places of delight where
they might forget the miseries of social calamities. The
Persians, philosophers in everything, abhorred politics
and much preferred the songs of nightingales to the
conferences of deputies.
Long before evening the little garden of the biroun
was swept and sprinkled. Upon the pavement thick
rugs were spread. A few cushions were placed on them,
and on trays were arranged dishes of fruit, sherbets and
wines, stringed instruments, little cymbals, tambourines,
kalians and opium pipes, all strewn with freshly-cut
roses. The Arabian master of the stables helped little
Suhun arrange everything ; he was to take part in the
entertainment, playing the flute and singing the songs
of his own country in order to add the perfumes of
Arabia to those of Persia.
The queen and I wished to watch the spectacle of this
fete. The way was easy. One wall of our subter-
ranean rooms overlooked the little garden of the biroun.
The high windows of this wall had broad sills. Mount-
ing to them by ladders, we installed ourselves comfort-
ably there, behind iron gratings which concealed us.
The windows were on a level with the garden ; we
would be as close to those who came there as though
we had ourselves gone to the fete in invisible cloaks.
In another window Envar-ed-Doule and the young
Nadir were ready to contemplate all that passed before
their eyes. Less romantic than we, they were eating
nuts and bonbons.
The mutrubes arrived, covered by long black veils.
With slow, grave movements, their left hands threw
back the veils from their faces, the right hands were
laid upon their hearts. They greeted the men with
great dignity. Standing, the men bowed respectfully.
" Salem-el-alecom ! "
" Afhate cherif ! "
Our little Suhun, veiled as always, received the
guests with the grace of a princess. Speaking of the
beautiful weather, of their precious health, she amiably
invited them to recline upon the cushions and to
remove their long veils, which she immediately handed
to a servant to be folded. According to custom, with-
out receiving any order, another servant brought a
black ewer of fresh water and poured a thin stream
over the hands of the guest into a bronze basin : an-
other offered towels. Always standing, the young men
awaited permission to take their places on their rugs.
" Ya Allah ! " I said, surprised, in the ear of the
queen. " One would say that your brothers were
receiving in their home the Queen of Shcba, or Saint
" But what else ? " she said, as surprised as I.
" Mutrubes are women."
The servant was passing among the guests, offering
cups of sorbet from her silver tray. The kalian was
lighted, and drifts of scented smoke floated from painted
lips to dissolve in the still air. Now and then an idle
hand brushed a wisp of music from the strings of an
Of the five mutrubes, one was merely a child, and
another about forty years old. According to our cus-
toms, this older one had already abandoned the life of
a courtesan. Serious, and without any rouge, she
appeared as grave as the young girl. The thoughts of
both seemed far away. The lassitude of the older
woman seemed to hold all the sleeping memories of her
life ; the dreaming eyes of the child seemed to listen to
the wings of the mysterious future which was flying
toward her. The other three dancers were young
women sixteen or seventeen years old.
To honour the month of Mouharem in which we
were, the elder recited a verse of the Alcoran. Then
she began to sing the most beautiful fragments of old
poems and familiar legends. Melancholy and bereft of
all illusions, this singer put into her song all the feeling
which in times now past she had put into her loves.
Sad memories, anguish and longing, tenderness and
ardour, were dignified by a noble sorrow, like bright
colours in an autumn garden. She sang of the crystal
palace of Soleiman, ruler of the djinns, fairy halls built
upon a lake. Here, at the threshold, stood the Queen
of Sheba, called in Persia " Queen of the West." She
is pale as the morning star in her long robes that hide
her golden feet from the eyes of the indiscreet. Mys-
tcrious feet, that no one in all the world has seen ! But
the djinns, who bow to the will of Soleiman, approach,
invisible. They pull away the carpet from beneath her
sandals. Left on the floor of crystal, she believes her-
self sinking into the lake ; terrified, she lifts the edge of
her robes. And Soleiman is dazzled by the beauty of
two little golden feet, covered with a light down. It
is this down, soft as the bloom on a peach, that enchants
the great king. And the first favour that he asks that
evening of his little queen is to be allowed to press
against his eyeballs those little feet, seen for an instant
on the crystal slabs above the lake water.
The singer stopped, moistened her lips with sorbet,
lifted a rose to her nostrils, and after a few straying
notes from the strings of the thar she began again to
Attentive and thoughtful, her hearers lay upon the
rugs, transported with her to the lands of faery.
Now she sang of the tragic love of Medjnoun and
Lcily was not beautiful, but Medjnoun loved her.
And when Leily's father separated them for ever by
giving his daughter to an Arabian prince, Medjnoun
went away into the deserts to break the hearts of the
wild beasts by his sorrow and to cause the stones them-
selves to weep.
" Leily, Leily," sang the sobbing voice. " Light of
my life, bringcr of death, Lcily ! Lcily, Leily, O my
love ! "
In each other's arms the queen and I wept as if it
were our names that Medjnoun was crying alone in the
silence of the desert. The mutrubes covered their
faces, and the queen's brother trembled with grief.
Hardly had we quieted our sobs and dried our eyes,
when we heard the tragedy of Ferhad and of Shirine.
Shirine, Queen of Armenia in heathen times,
swayed before us, young, beautiful, loving and loved by
Khosrow, Emperor of Persia. But for the welfare of
his kingdom Khosrow must take as his wife another
queen. Shirine, wounded to death by her love, left
her palace and gardens, renounced her throne, and went
into the desert to die alone among the cliffs of Bi-
Soutoun. To comfort her last moments, Khosrow
sent his sculptor, the giant Ferhad, to carve his em-
peror's image on the rocks of Bi-Soutoun. Shirine left
her refuge in the cliffs and came to gaze upon the
image of her beloved, and Ferhad, seeing all the sorrows
of the world in her dark eyes, loved Shirine. Before
the image of the emperor, Ferhad killed himself by a
blow of his great hammer. Bending above the dying
giant, Shirine felt her heart melting in the fire of his
great love, and gave her lips to his kisses.
" Come, O my queen ! Come, O splendid death !
My light, my sun, my sea of love, Shirine, Shirine !
Eternity of rapture, O my Shirine ! " And death
united the souls of these great lovers.
The youngest of the mutrubes, crouched beside the
singer, wept, and kissed the hands that rested on the
strings of the thar.
" But I am changing the festival into a funeral ! " the
singer said, smiling upon the listeners who were broken
by emotion like flowers by rain. " Rise, my daughter,"
she continued, addressing the child. " Dance for us
your pretty dances ; we are here to love and laugh, not
to mourn the sorrow of old loves."
The little one rose and arranged the folds of her dress.
The scarlet silken sash was moulded about her slender
hips ; a transparent white robe covered her childish
body. With a sweeping gesture she took the cymbals,
flung back her thick rich locks of hair, rose upon the
tips of her little feet, and began her dance. It was the
poem of the awakening of the lotus to the sunshine,
sung by the little quiverings of her adolescent body.
Her eyes closed, her lips parted in an innocent smile,
she was as fresh as the lotus and as candid as the dawn.
At the end of the dance, Prince Kemal called her to
him and kissed her upon the forehead. She smiled, and
in order to be polite ottered her forehead to Zelil and to
Aboubekir. With the manner of affectionate brothers
they kissed her, and offered her bonbons, which she
gathered in her little red handkerchief, and then re-
turned to her place beside the singer.
" Let us go to sleep, my daughter. The hour is late
for us two," the singer said to her as kindly as a mother,
and preceded by Suhun they went into the biroun,
where servants were spreading their beds.
The venerable Envar-ed-Doule, saying, " Youth to
the young," left her place in the window, taking with
her the young Nadir, who begged her to let him see all of
the fete. M Come, come, my son," she said to him
tenderly. " At your age it is better to sleep. In two
years you, too, will be with your brothers in the biroun.
But now, let us go to sleep."
The queen and I rearranged our cushions, and
remained in our window. We were both of the
same age as the dancers, and nothing was forbidden
The spirit of the garden changed with the departure
of the older woman, whom the young mutrubes
d.s. 175 m
respected as a mother. She was their mistress in the
difficult art of the courtesans of Asia. From her they
learned the science of pleasing the eye, of dancing,
being open-hearted, reciting beautiful poems, scattering
through their conversation jewels of proverbs, and how
to flatter shy wooers, to be proud with bold men, to be
grave in the evening and to blossom into flowers of
love in the dawn.
The young men asked permission to remove their
sober black robes, and draped in long white tunics
they stretched out on the cushions. The dancers
emerged from their veils, leaving only silken tunics
embroidered in gold, with long sleeves that half-opened
to reveal the twinkling of their white arms.
Zelil took the thar and began to play : the mutrubes
danced. The garden seemed to laugh with all its willow
branches. Even the olive-trees, silver in the light of
the moon, cast away their moody air, and the one great
cypress that overlooked the smaller trees lost its
The eyes of the princes fixed themselves upon the
palpitating throats and slender arms of the dancers.
Bending forward to the ground, the girls, like charming
serpents, slid their bodies along the carpet, and to the
rhythm of the slow music, laughing, almost reached
the arms held out to them, retreating again when an
eager touch would have broken the rhythm of the
Of the three mutrubes one, an Armenian, dreamy
and sad, incarnated so well the spirit of the legendary
queen that in addressing her they said, " Khanoun
Shirine." Another was mischievous and mirthful, and
the third, Assorie, was a tall and beautiful Assyrian.
Her strong shoulders, her gleaming arms and thighs,
were those of the marble figures of antiquity. From
the beginning, without any hesitation, she had chosen
the handsome Arabian horseman, preferring him to
any of his masters. Sitting silent and gazing into each
other's eyes, they seemed to have forgotten the world.
It was only when Zelil, tired of playing, threw aside
the thar, that the Arab stood up among the rose-bushes,
and lifting his flute to his lips began to play the melo-
dies of his Arabia. A country of magic and dreams
rose before our eyes. The lovers ceased their ardent
glances, raised themselves on their cushions, and leaning
on their elbows abandoned themselves to the charm of
the flute. This severe and haughty Arab was no longer
their groom, but a proud king of the deserts, who was
wearied to death among the little men and weaklings of
a dying country. He evoked the crystal air of Arabia,
the solitude of vast plains and the strength of great
winds. He brought the desert into those narrow walls.
The soft voluptuousness of the little Persian gardens
sickened him, and his flute wept with regret and with
rage. It cried that he would give a thousand languor-
ous women for one hour of racing with the desert wind
upon a fiery horse.
Humiliated by the grandeur and the vigour of this
Arabian, the little Persian princes rose and tried to
escape the burden of themselves by wandering up and
down the paths of their garden. Zelil, returning, took
up the thar to drive away the futile longings that sad-
dened them. And again in the intoxication of the
dance they forgot the world.
A poignant sadness ran through me. " So soon," I
thought, " all the beauty and fire of life that fills these
trembling bodies will be dust in forgotten tombs."
Kemal kissed the melancholy Shirine. She wept with
happiness under his caresses. Smiling, Kemal dried her
tears with rose-leaves.
Zelil no longer wakened the soul of the thar with his
slender fingers. Weary, he slept, his head laid on the
knees of Suhun. Happy in this unexpected tenderness,
Suhun held his head between her hands like a sacred
lotus. On the rugs the tired dancers slept. The white
moon was melting into the light clouds of dawn.
Slowly the silvery olive trees resumed their dusty
green ; the dark roses became golden and crimson in
the clear light ; the cypress stood severe against the
light sky. The birds awoke ; the voice of the muezzin
announced the sun. Princes and dancers awakened,
turned their pale faces toward the sunrise, and whis-
pered their prayers. A yellow ray of sunlight entered
the garden, calling believers to fasting and the prayers
of Mouharem. Separating, the lovers went into the
biroun to sleep until evening.
We descended from our window. " Queen," I said
to her, affected by all that we had just seen from our
hidden corner during that beautiful summer night,
" We Christians, we call all that a mortal sin."
She shrugged her shoulders. " And we others, we
call it, love."
We slept. But the beautiful reality seen through
our windows reflected itself in my dreams. Other
lovers, beneath my eyes, kissed and sighed and danced
to the rhythm of the thars that wept the swift passing of
all loves. I woke, I seized the hands of the queen who
slept beside me.
" Oh no, no ! Do not sleep ! How can you sleep ?
I, I want to live, to live with all my soul in a drunken-
ness of happiness ! "
" O my queen," I said, stifling. " The vaults of
these rooms begin to oppress me as much as the heavy
beams of our patriarchal houses. Let us go away !
Let us go far from this place, to the countries where
all the women are free, free to live fully every hour of
their lives ! "
" But where ? " she asked.
I did not know. I knew only that something hidden
in me that had been growing unnoticed had suddenly
thrust leaves and blossom into the daylight. And its
blossom was a desire to escape from all walls, to be free.
Freedom ? What was it ? I did not know, but I
desired it. The Persian society in which I lived was
much freer from the bondage of prejudice than the
Christian society from which I had come, but it was
nevertheless the slavery which good society is, every-
where. Like all women in high social position, we
were held in the mire of stupidities and absurdities into
which " propriety " and 1 * a good education " had sunk
our feet ; we were incapable of being truly free spirits.
Yet I remembered the unhappincss and disaster to
which my brother had come, left by my father to
develop as freely as the animals, according to the pre-
cepts of Rousseau. Liberty ? Perhaps humanity is
incapable of it. Liberty is perhaps only a dream.
But that day, in spite of their beauty, the sombre vaults
of our luxurious rooms oppressed and stifled me.
To distract me, the queen took me that afternoon
outside the city to the ruins of Rcy, the ancient capital
of Persia. There, amid excavations like gashes in the
dry earth, stood one wall. An emperor, surrounded
by his twelve sons, his vizirs, his horsemen, his dancers
and his musicians, was carved there in a glory mocked by
the little lizards crawling on the proud writing that
framed his grandeur, vanished now into nothingness.
A fakir with the face of a dying ascetic, disturbed in
his meditations, came out like a bat from the heaps of
rocks. Angered because our voices had troubled his
dreams, he cursed us with the sharp sounds of his
" It is life I want," I cried. " Not the death of
kingdoms. This wall terrifies me. It is more terrible
than a thousand cemeteries."
" Very well," she replied, and turning to the driver
of our carriage she said, " Go to Shah-Abdul-Azim."
" But do not be surprised," she said to me, " if the
lack of servants and the appearance of our feet, too finely
shod for those of grave khanoums, cause us to be taken
Having seen so closely those charming courtesan
dancers, I did not at all mind being thought one of
them for an hour or two.
Shah-Abdul-Azim is a pretty village built around a
mosque of the same name that stands above the tomb
of Abdul-Azim, one of the most virtuous rulers of
Persia. Gardens rose from the desert to spread their
shade about this tomb, and time has canonized it and
made it a place of pilgrimage.
Night had reached Shah-Abdul-Azim before we
arrived, but it had not brought darkness. We were in
the month of Mouharem, the month in which night
becomes day for the Mussulman. Illuminated by
thousands of flaming torches, the village seemed to be
on fire. Beneath the smoking lights, a little bazaar.
Alleys crowded with asses decked in tinkling bells, and
Arabian horses ornamented with blue beads. Poplars
shivering against the walls, gutters murmuring with the
voices of living water. Little fruit-shops right and
left ; on their thresholds old men with rust-coloured
beards smoked their pipes. Little children played on
the pavements, among the hoofs of asses and mules.
In the crowds handsome men, grave and languorous,
clad in sardaris of black silk and tall caps of astrakhan,
followed with their velvety gaze the veiled women who
passed with a tinkling of bracelets. Graciously the
women allowed the wind to lift their fluttering veils,
and their glances, at once timid and bold, stabbed
manly hearts. All this colour and movement, this
living tapestry woven of human lives, buzzed like a
beehive with the sounds of voices, laughter, shuffling of
sandals, cries of the camel- and mule-drivers, calls of the
fruit and sorbet sellers. From time to time the high
clear call of the muezzin came down from the skies to
sanctify by prayer this happy care-free life.
At the entrance to the village we had descended from
our carriage to mingle with the crowds. Now a sound
like the groans of the damned fell on our ears. We
were before the wall that surrounded the mosque.
We could see only the dome, lighted by the smoking
torches of the penitents, and hear the clanking of iron
chains, sobs, moans, and the jerky rhythm of drums.
In the black smoke and lurid lights the panic-stricken
trees quivered, holding out their branches toward us.
I was seized by a desire to enter, if only for a moment,
that mysterious place.
" Dear queen, let us go there — into that garden," I
She was silent. The idea of introducing a Christian,
a Giaour, into that sacred place wounded the Mussul-
man in her. I blushed, and said quickly, " Forgive me,
in the name of Allah. It is because I have been
treated in your house as one of the family that I
ventured to ask to be allowed to salute the house of
" May His light fall upon you, and His truth illumine
your soul," she replied. " Let us go in. Your heart
is pure." And lifting the heavy chains that hung
across the entrance she led me into the garden for-
bidden to unbelievers.
In a circle of torches, the worshippers were dancing.
Whipping their bare shoulders with iron chains, they
followed in a circle the rhythmic leaps of their leader,
who beat his chest with one hand and struck his head
with a naked sword held in the other. Naked to the
waist, glistening with blood and sweat, surrounded by
the lamentations of black-robed women, they were
shouting, " Shah Hossein ! Vah Hossein ! Ya Ali ! "
These sacred names rose toward the black space of the
sky, followed by the monotonous thick heart-beat of the
drums, the clashing of cymbals, and the shrieks of the
women. I could not move. The dancing red lights of
the torches upon shaved and bloody heads frightened
me as would the flames of hell. These epileptics,
insensible to pain or fatigue, whose staring eyes and
jerking bodies expressed the rage and desperation of
those who for an instant have seen Paradise, only to lose
it for ever, seemed to me the fiends of Azerahil.
" Let us go, let us go ! " the queen said to me.
" These dances make me want to die beating my head
against the walls. Let us bow before the tomb of
Abdul- Azim, and go ! " Her face was wet with
" What ! You — you wish to take me into the
mosque ? " I said, choking.
" Come, come," she answered feverishly. " You
will see two magnificent tombs in wrought silver set
with turquoises ; you will see curtains of pearls as
large as your eyes ; you will see great lamps of Mesr
gold made in Schiras ; you will see the ancient prayer-
rugs, and prostrated on your face you will kiss the floor
of this mosque. Come, let us do it quickly, let us do it
quickly, and go ! "
She hastened, murmuring prayers. I followed her,
trembling. I, a Christian, a Giaour, in the month of
Mouharem, set my feet upon the sacred threshold of the
mosque. Conscious of the sacrilege I was committing,
I was like one drunk. In the feeble light of the lamps,
through a haze, as if in delirium, I hardly saw the
Arabian arches, the silver tombs, the dark corners
hung with white curtains. The curtains were of
black velvet, but so richly embroidered with pearls that
they seemed white.
The queen prostrated herself ; I, too, fell on my
face. I could not think ; my mind was lost in a fog.
" Woman, why are you wearing shoes, here ! " I
heard suddenly a brutal, enraged voice. " Giaour ! "
A rough hand seized my shoulder.
" It is the end," I felt. " This is my death."
Mingled with the sensation of falling through endless
black space was the feeling that my mind was a small
clear mirror, in which I saw my body torn to bloody
fragments under the red light of torches. I felt my
hands clutching the veils of the queen.
She turned quickly. " Let her alone ! " she said.
" She is my sister-in-law, a Kurd ; she is not familiar
with our laws. But may Allah strike me dead if she is
a Giaour ! "
" Giaour ! A Giaour here ! " said some one
" Giaour ! A Giaour ! " repeated furious voices.
In an instant the dancers would hear that word and
would throw themselves upon me. Already I felt
their torches burying themselves in my body, my head
splitting beneath their feet. I threw myself toward
" She is my sister-in-law, a Kurd ! " repeated the
queen. " Allah rain lire upon me if I lie ! She is a
true believer ! " And in vain she tried to restrain the
frantic haste that was betraying me.
But in a moment we were out of the garden, caught
in the crowds of the streets. I rushed onward, drag-
ging the queen behind me. " Wait, wait," she said,
laughing. " Where are you going ? "
Her laughter told me that I was saved. I could not
speak ; it seemed to me that my veins were filled with
weakness. Suddenly her hand seized mine. " Ah !
we are followed. We are lost ! " she said, terrified.
Two men were following us.
We hurried on, the queen glancing over her shoulder
at every step. " It is nothing," she whispered in my
ear. " They are two gallants who take us for courte-
sans." She laughed. " Come, it is all over. Let us
find our coachman."
We were not far from the corner where we had
left him, with orders not to stir until we returned.
But, bewildered, we saw neither carriage nor coachman.
An old beggar approached us.
" Khanoums," he said, " your coachman has com-
manded me to offer you his respectful greetings.
After drinking some sorbet and hearing the tales of
some story-tellers, he found a company of noble
Baktiaris who promised him a mountain of gold if he
would take them to the city. To you his salute ; to us,
the poor, the charity of the rich." He held out his
The queen was furious. " May his body be food
for Shaitan ! " she exclaimed, placing a coin in the
beggar's hand. " How, then, shall we reach the city,
with neither carriage nor mules ? "
The two gallants greeted us respectfully.
" Could we, by the graciousness of Destiny, be of
service to the beautiful Khanoums ? " said one of
them. " Do such charming gazelles wish anything
that humble devotion might offer them ? "
" Allah spread over you his shadow ! " said the queen.
" Indeed, we would be so happy, Aghas, to find two
mules and a servant to take us to our residence in the
"Your orders are w r ritten upon our eyeballs," they
replied. " In half an hour you shall have our own
" At the day of the resurrection may your eyes see
only light," said the queen in sincere gratitude.
" What light is more to be desired than that of the
moon, your face ? " the younger answered. " Allah
have pity upon us, and send us the alms of your smile."
" Allah hears the prayers of the faithful," replied the
queen. " Implore His favour and He will perhaps
grant your petitions."
There was in that a very grave promise. But the
queen, too profoundly unhappy to value greatly any-
thing, never counted the cost of her impulses. The
young men smiled, happy at the prospect of meeting us
again in the intimacy of our gardens.
" And may our ears be rejoiced by hearing the
names of our doves ? "
" Allah is my witness that before we leave Shah-
Abdul-Azim you will know them," the queen promised.
" And perhaps even those of the gardens where
happy ones are blinded by the radiance of those eyes ? "
" You will know that also," said the queen.
" Is that as true as the Koran ? "
" As true as the holy Alcoran," the queen said
The two young men went away to find their servant
and the mules.
" Queen, what have you promised them ? " I said in
" Do not be troubled. I will tell them my name,"
" And if . . ."
" Allah is great and wise," she interrupted. " While
we are waiting, let us smoke a kalian in the house of this
We were near a sheik's house, and as they are caravan-
series for all passers-by, we could enter it without any
formality. Summoned by the violent barking of the
dogs, an old, bent figure appeared on the doorstep with
a flaming pine torch. Her fantastic shadow danced on
the low walls.
" Salem-el-Alecom," she said to us with goodwill.
" Enter in the name of Allah. The sheik is at the
mosque ; I am alone in the house."
We stooped to enter the bare old room. No furni-
ture, a dingy carpet spread on the earth floor, a poor
dinner arranged on a little cloth. One table encrusted
with mother-of-pearl, and with an open Koran upon
it, was lighted by a candle.
" Continue your pious task," said the queen, guessing
that the wife of the sheik had been reciting the Koran.
" Allah is patient," she replied, removing the glasses
that balanced on the tip of her nose. And curious to
know who we were, she invited us to sit beside her on
the ragged carpet. Without any order being given,
an old servant brought and lighted the kalian. The
queen took the long tube, put the mouthpiece to her
lips, and began smoking with visible pleasure. I
closed my eyelids and leaned against the wall, wearied
by so many emotions. But the queen sought a little
" She is my sister-in-law," she said to the wife of the
" May Allah never deprive her of that good fortune,"
replied the old woman. " She appears to be of the type
of the fragile women of Azerbaijan," she added.
" She comes from a still greater distance, Khanoum,"
answered the queen. " She is from Kara-Dag."
" Ya Allah ! From the Caucasus ? Is she Shiite or
Sunnite ? " the old woman pursued, wishing to know
to which Mussulman sect I belonged.
" She is of the tribe of the Kerahim," the queen said
mysteriously. I veiled my face quickly to hide a
" Kerahims ? " the wife of the sheik repeated, sur-
prised. She had perhaps never even heard the name of
this tribe. " Do they follow the true light that will
one day lead them to Paradise ? "
" She herself is of the true faith," said the queen.
" How else could my brother have married her ? "
" And her tribe ? Does it still live in the darkness
of ignorance ? "
" Alas ! " said the queen in a tragic voice. " Her
tribe still holds by two hands to the errors of the
The old woman shook her head mournfully. " May
the Prince of Heaven rest his merciful eyes upon that
tribe," she said kindly, and turning to me, " Why do
you remain so sad and silent ? " she asked.
I had not time to speak before the queen said calmly,
" She is mute, Khanoum. Allah protect the unhappy ! "
The old woman regarded me tenderly, took the kalian
and placed it before me. I bowed silently, and began
" She is still very young," said the old woman,
" If your brother would send her on pilgrimage to
Mecca and Kerbala, Allah would perhaps remove
silence from her lips. Has she already served the
prosperity of humanity and of your household ? "
" Alas ! " sighed the queen. " The sins of her people
rest heavily upon her ; she is sterile."
" Allah remove from her His righteous anger ! "
cried the old woman, completely upset by so many
" Ah, Khanoum," continued the queen as if inspired,
" In His infinite wisdom " But unfortunately for
her fancies, the old porter at this moment announced
respectfully that our brothers awaited our commands
outside, with two mules and a mule-driver. We left
the wife of the sheik upon the threshold, gazing after
us into the darkness.
The queen was animated. These adventures had
begun really to amuse her. She had already completely
forgotten our emotions in the mosque. " Let us hasten
to greet the lights of our souls ! " she said merrily.
Those two young men approached us, their happy
faces revealed by a small torch. With many compli-
ments and poetic words they aided us to mount the
mules. When- we were comfortably seated they
reminded the queen of her promise.
" I am the sister of the Princes Kemal, Zelil, and
Aboubekir," she said gravely. The young men stood
for an instant dumb, then bent double before those
names, known to every one.
" She," continued the queen, indicating me, " is
. . ." and she spoke my name. The young men
saluted us with profound respect. " I have told you
our names. Guard them in silence among the treasures
of your souls," the queen commanded them, " and may
peace be upon you."
Folding their hands on their breasts, they bowed
deeply again. But to recompense them for their
chivalrous aid, in taking the bridles of the mules we
allowed our veils to float for an instant at the will
of the wind, and their eager but respectful glances
rested on our unveiled faces.
The queen held out to one her handkerchief. I gave
mine to the other. They pressed them against their
breasts, their lips, their eyes, to express silently their
gratitude. And we rode away toward Teheran.
That was all.
A comet rose from the Occident and climbed above
our horizon. Pale at first, it became more and more
terrifying and menaced the earth like a silver knife.
The dervishes predicted plagues upon the whole
world, a great war, and the end of empires. A mystic
dread filled our hearts. Each of us felt the presence
of a mighty king in anger who showed us the sword
of his executioner.
The day on which the comet would destroy us was
announced. " At midday," said some. " At mid-
night," said others.
" Let us go to see the end of the world from our
roof-tops," said the queen to me, while every one else
was praying underground. " We shall never see any-
thing more beautiful."
We mounted the ladders to the roofs.
At the instant of noon, between two winks of an
eyelid, the sky covered itself with clouds that touched
the earth ; the black wind of the desert howled
around us. Prostrate in the streets, men and women
called on their Gods, children wailed for their mothers,
and these shrieks mingled with the terrified voices of
the beasts. On the roof-top, in the wind, the queen
stood holding up her arms to the sky. " Allah is
great, Allah is merciful ! It is the end of the world ! "
she cried, and her voice was like the flute of the Arab
that had sung of freedom.
The clouds passed. But no one doubted any longer
that at midnight the comet would devour us.
That evening it was dazzling : larger than the
morning star, it spread its tail across the whole sky.
The queen and I reclined in our underground rooms,
smoking a few pipes of opium. " Do you desire to
see this world continue any longer ? " she said. " I
say to you that I would crush it all beneath my heel,
like the egg of a scorpion. Nothing can issue from it
As for me, I loved the world then. And the sweet
heavy scent of the opium filled me with an illimitable
We mounted to the roofs. Lying upon a carpet, we
watched in silence. Suddenly we saw the earth divide
in two, and fall away into the infinite. We were on a
bronze island surrounded by a phosphorescent sea
that swallowed in its waves millions of human
beings. The comet stopped, hesitated a moment, and
then darted at us the thunderbolt that struck us
dead. . . .
When we returned to life, in the bright morning, we
were astonished and incredulous to see above us still
the unchanged sky.
The Europeans had registered a rain of stars and
announced that the comet was going away.
Life had resumed its monotony, which seemed more
wearisome than before, when one day the brothers of
the queen told us that on the next morning Justice
would hang Prince M . . . cs-Saltaneh.
He was a cousin of the queen. He had come from
Odessa to restore the exiled Shah to his place upon the
throne of Persia. Disguised as a muezzin, he had been
going about in Teheran, and his party was almost
ready to strike the blow that would have destroyed
the Government, when he was betrayed, seized, and
d.s. 191 n
condemned to die. A scaffold had already been
erected on the great square before the Divan.
The queen lost consciousness when she heard this
news. She lay for an hour without speaking or moving.
Then a fever consumed her. Scarcely speaking, she
walked up and down the garden paths, in and out of
our rooms, without resting for a moment.
" We must be present at his death," she said to me,
" so that he may know that I am there, and that my
heart dies in seeing him die. That will help him to
bear it. You will come with me."
" If you wish it," I said, my heart contracting.
" Our Government ! " she said, spurning the word
with her foot. And again, " Camel-drivers and
masons ! "
Through the whole night she walked up and down
on the roof, like a drunken person. " If I could
rescue him to-night ! " she said, wringing her hands.
" Persia is no longer governed ; she is ruled by mule-
drivers and the beggars of the bazaars. It is the vileness
of the streets, the scum of horseponds, that is covering
our gardens and our palaces." And again, " If he
could be rescued ! If there were some way of rescuing
him to-night ! Think, think, is there no way ? I have
a place where he could be hidden for years in safety ! "
I could say nothing.
Early in the morning, heavily veiled, she and I were
in a small room above the gates of the Divan Khane.
On one side we saw the square overflowing with a
crowd that had been there all night in order to see the
spectacle ; on the other side our windows overlooked
the court of the Divan, where the judges were seated
at a table waiting for the last formalities.
The prince appeared, followed by guards. He was
still a young man. His glance was proud, his gestures
grave and restrained.
He replied negatively to all the questions that were
put to him, and seemed eager to reach the scaffold.
Beyond the walls, the impatient cries of the mob had
been rising since dawn.
The judges ended their questions. The order to
lead the prince to the scaffold was given, and two
guards seized his arms brutally. A profound anger
flamed in the prince. With an imperative gesture
he freed himself, and approaching his judges he saluted
them courteously. The judges were astonished for an
instant ; he asked a favour — to be allowed to sing
before his death !
And facing our window he sang, his head uncovered,
his little cap pressed against his breast ; he sang like a
true lover, his eyes half-closed, and an indefinable
smile at the corner of his mouth. One felt in his song
all his sorrow to die on this beautiful morning, all the
anguish of the death that waited outside the walls, and
the horror of the shades that would blot out for him
the sunshine that would still caress the world.
He finished the song, bowed to his troubled judges,
and walked toward the gates beyond which the
crowd moaned like an ocean. He walked proudly
beneath the archway.
The howling of famished beasts seizing their prey
rose from the mobs. The executioners were placing
the rope around the prince's neck.
In a few instants his body, with inert arms, was
swinging in the air like a poor puppet. The throng,
after an instant of silence, ran wild with ferocious joy.
" Monsters ! Is that, then, humanity ? " I thought,
sickened. " Is that the people ? This beast with
a thousand heads ? " It was not grief for the one man
who had died that blackened my soul ; it was a horror
of all humanity.
" Were I a queen of long ago," I thought, " I would
hang in one day all this throng of monsters."
The queen was slowly sinking on the floor, uncon-
scious. Servants carried her to our carriage, and I felt
that I was cruel in trying to bring her back to life that
was so hideous.
That evening, again consumed with fever, she took
me away from the city to a little garden, deserted and
unwatered, where on the dry earth among dead stems
of flowers there was only a tumble-down hut. An
old man, nearly blind, received us in its one dirty room.
The queen ordered him to open a little door in one
wall and asked me to pass its threshold. Inside, I stood
stupefied. Before me innumerable white columns
supported Arabic arches that upheld the domes of
great caverns lighted by feeble rays of sunlight. Rich
rugs, soft divans, inlaid tables, lamps of pierced silver,
gave a fantastic touch of splendour and luxury to
these lofty rooms. This had been the secret temple
of the Guiabres and Babists, their only refuge during
the religious persecutions of Nasr-ed-Din Shah. The
queen had bought it, probably for her love affairs.
" I would have hidden him here," she said. And
prostrate on the stone floor, she wept.
A little while later, Teheran feted the coronation of
the young Shah.
It must be understood that in Persia we were no
longer under the rule of the despots. We were in
" marchroutie " (Constitutional Government), and we
had a Medjlis. The former despot, Mahomet Ali Shah,
had been exiled to Odessa, after having spent a few weeks
on neutral soil ; that is to say, on the billiard table of
the Russian ambassador, where he was allowed to sleep.
But although we had a Constitution, it seemed that the
lion-crested crown of his father must be forced upon
the head of the little prince, fourteen years old. He
was given for an heir his little brother, eleven years old.
The young king, weeping, begged them to take off
this heavy hat and give it back to his father.
The heir began to laugh. The king lost his temper
and ordered him hanged. But he learned that in
" marchroutie " this power belonged only to the
" If I cannot even hang those I dislike, what kind of a
king am I, then ? " the little Shah demanded, indig-
" Constitutional, sire," the Courtier replied, bowing.
From that moment he abhorred his throne and was
plunged into gloom. He wished neither to eat nor to
amuse himself ; he turned his back upon the court and
stubbornly refused to smile.
It was then that the queen and I thought of amusing
him with a little entertainment, which we decided to
give on the solemn occasion of his official accession to
the throne. This entertainment might sweeten for
him, we thought, the bitter ordeal of the ceremonies.
But in order to give it we must be accompanied to the
palace by another woman to act as our mother, and to
find in all Teheran a third woman so audacious was a
vain hope. The queen racked her brains.
" Ah, saved ! " she cried at last. " There is a herma-
phrodite in Teheran. She will consent to help us,
" A hermaphrodite ? That word says nothing."
" But yes. She is of your country, too. They say
the Caucasus is full of them."
" My Caucasus ? Hermaphrodites ? "
She explained to me that they are the children of
Caucasian women seized by the djinns, and that they
have the power of transforming themselves sometimes
into women, sometimes into men. It was a revelation
to me. I had not only never met one in the Caucasus,
I had never even heard them mentioned. I begged
that she be brought.
She came ; she was a young woman with a very
sweet contralto voice. She had fled from the Caucasus
with a young girl who was escaping from tyrannical
parents who had sold the child to the Tartars. An
intelligent and cultured woman, she wished to earn her
bread by teaching. But, hearing her masculine voice,
the people believed her a child of the djinns and
avoided her as one avoids the evil eye. Although in the
baths she appeared simply as a young, slender woman,
she was nevertheless refused registration in the schools,
because it was supposed that she was a hermaphrodite
who had transformed herself into a woman in order
to deceive every one.
As a hermaphrodite, she was banished from Christian
society, and as a Christian she found it impossible to
work among the Mussulmans. Therefore, snared in
this net of virtue, she and her young companion were
dying of hunger. The Mussulmans, less virtuous
than the Christians, had in simple charity sent them
from time to time a little food. And finding herself
welcome in the house of Envar-ed-Doule, our herma-
phrodite wept with happiness, and kissing our hands
asked only to obey our wishes.
Our difficulty was solved. We clapped our hands
for joy, and busied ourselves with heaps of brocades,
veils, silver and gold tissues and caskets of jewels,
choosing the robes we should wear. Ah yes, beyond
doubt I should have been wiser, more thoughtful, more
prudent ! But I was wearied to death of monotony, my
spirit was smothering, panting for freer air. I was
young and reckless. As for the queen, she did not care
for anything ; she sought only a little amusement to
make her forget the burden of living.
Accompanied, then, by this child of a djinn, the
queen and I went to give our little entertainment
before the Shah on the evening of his coronation.
We appeared before the young Shah in the strictest
seclusion. Every effort of the curious ambassadors who
desired to see this unique spectacle was politely baffled.
Outside, about the palace, fire-dragons were brighten-
ing the dark sky and falling, hissing, into the ponds
where the frightened willows hid their locks. Thou-
sands of pine-torches threw a lurid light upon the high
walls of the garden and the sombre silhouettes of noble
Persian women, draped in black, grouped beneath the
Within the palace, in a little room draped with
tapestries, servants helped us to remove our heavy
veils. The moment arrived. A hand held back the
drapery, and I entered the royal presence.
I found myself in a sumptuous hall paved with
squares of marble. Stalactites of mirrors covered the
ceiling and reflected thousands of lights that animated
the voluptuous walls hung with golden brocades.
The burning wax of the candles perfumed the arcades
and filled me with a drowsy warmth.
On a throne of gold encrusted with jewels and
surrounded by draped screens, the young Shah was
seated. An attendant on either side fanned him,
making the aigrettes of his crown waver like wisps of
smoke. Beyond him, on a raised dais, stood the marble
throne of Djimchide, the only grandeur that was left
him from his ancestors of Persepolis.
I prostrated myself. Beyond the curtains the musi-
cians touched the strings of the thars. Music softer
than the light of the candles and sweet as their perfume
stole through the golden draperies. I rose, spreading
my veils like transparent wings, and advancing into
the open space began my dance.
The reputation of the dancers of Persia, who were
courtesans, prevented me from revealing freely to
him all the grace of the Caucasians ; modesty re-
strained my gestures. Beyond the curtains the
musicians followed each motion with music. I
expressed, with a poetry of movement as cool and
chaste as the dawn, the awakening of the human soul
to the beauty of love. When by chance my glance
met that of the little Shah, he modestly lowered his
beautiful velvety eyes. I then saw only the flash of
the diamond lion which trembled on his forehead.
I was the first woman he had seen since he became
king. Fearing that a woman would corrupt him, the
courtiers had surrounded him only with young princes
whose love they intended to replace all others. What
a fate, to be compelled to remember in every moment
of his life that behind his curtains eves and ears as
numerous as their arabesques recorded each of his
gestures, each of his sighs ! In truth had he not the
right, this unhappy king, to be a tyrant to this court
which tyrannized over him even in the privacy of his
I vanished from his eyes through the curtains. The
vizir of Dar-Bar thanked me warmly in the name of the
Shah, and informed me that the Shah had commanded
that the order of knighthood, Shir and Khorshid, be
conferred upon me.
Imagine my joy ! I, a knight of the Lion and the
Sun, the sun that I adore ! The queen and I returned
to the house of Envar-ed-Doule talking of nothing else.
Alas, the following day, the Regent Naib-ed-Saltaneh
being dead, there could not be found in the whole
kingdom of Persia, emancipated as it was, any official
who would sign this firman. What ! confer the Shir
and Khorshid upon a woman ? One would have been
obliged to revolutionize all the empires of Islam.
The whole kingdom talked of me. A thousand
stories were invented about me, to thrill the bazaars,
the baths, the birouns and indorouns. No one doubted
that I had become a traitor to my religion. It was not
true. I was, and I remain in spite of everything, a good
Christian who believes in God and Paradise, without
too much belief in Satan or in hell, the necessity of them
appearing to me doubtful. If God has tolerated all our
sins here below, where He has given us so many joys,
why should He deprive us of Paradise ? And in any
case, how would hell help us ?
But my piety, different from that of others, was in my
own soul. The Christian world called me a heretic and
a courtesan, and these terrible epithets were crowned
with the name, " Daughter of Sodom and Gomorrah."
Too late, I perceived my imprudence. Who among
the Christians could believe that the garden which
separated the indoroun from the biroun had saved me
from the indiscreet gaze of the young Mussulman
princes ? What evil were not loose tongues pouring
upon my name ?
These indignities penetrated like a blade of steel
into my Armenian soul. All innocent as I was, I felt
myself lost. Shame troubled my soul. I feared even
violence, and left the house of Envar-ed-Doule only
disguised or under cover of night. I knew that our
Lord in Heaven does not trouble Himself to defend
those who are attacked by evil tongues.
I must leave the house of Envar-ed-Doule. But to
do that, I must go away from Persia. I valued too
highly the respect of our patriarchal Armenian society
to be able to endure returning, as a sinner, to the
company of the austere Araratians. Where could I go ?
Fearful, I hesitated. Imagine how much courage I
needed to go, alone, into countries far beyond the
borders of everything I knew.
An incident occurred to end my hesitation.
I was returning from a fete which the most celebrated
of the courtesans of Iran, Tadj-es-Saltaneh, princess
and poetess, had given for her friends. A recklessness
like that of the queen was beginning, in spite of my
resistance, to harden in my own heart. Having
nothing to lose, one can dare anything. And a curi-
osity, mixed, I confess it, with some fascination, had led
mc to that fete which was still intoxicating my senses.
Darkness was falling from the sky upon the crooked
crowded streets. The muezzins were already chanting
the evening prayers. Leaning on the cushions of the
carriage behind its curtains, I thought of the high
walls which enclosed the little palace of Tadj-es-
Saltaneh, I saw again the arched galleries where we
had lain stretched out on the cushions, and the little
dancers who had enchanted our eyes. I remembered
their frail, delicate bodies that rolled at our feet to the
rhythm of the stringed instruments. Their childish
hands caressed us ; trembling, they lay upon us, their
heads on our throats, and covered us with their per-
I thought of this courtesan daughter of a king, who
preferred the intoxications of music and love to the
boredom of a high place near the throne. I admired
the fierce pride with which she supported the name of a
depraved woman, and I highly esteemed her will to live
as she chose and not to exist a slave to the will of others.
But for myself, I felt tired and broken, and the sun fled
Ncaring the public baths, I was seized by a desire to
lie on the hot slabs and let the servants softly splash my
body with warm water. This repose would perhaps
restore my power to think, to decide. The hour was
late, I hoped to find myself alone. Wrapping myself
in my veils, and commanding the carriage to wait, I
hastened with trembling steps under the stone arches
dimly lighted by pierced lamps.
I was mistaken. In the great room a few Christian
women, crouched on the slabs, were finishing their
dressing. Recognizing me, they drew back as though
I were a leper. Seeing in a corner a very old Persian
woman, dried and withered as a mummy, I went
toward her. Two servants were washing her magnifi-
cent hair which fell down her horrible back and writhed
on the stones.
I addressed her respectfully in Persian.
" Are you then indeed converted into a Mussulman,
that you dare speak to me in Persian ? " the shrew
asked me in a furious voice.
" Forgive me, Khanoum," I said ; " I thought that
you were Persian."
She rose, trembling with anger, and cried in a
hoarse voice, " What ? I — I, Mogdoussi-Khanoum,
Pilgrim of Jerusalem, I, a Persian ! " And with her
bony hands she threw upon me a pitcher of boiling
Happily, the women seized her hands in time to
prevent my being scalded to death. Painfully burned,
I fled toward my carriage, pursued by the scornful
laughter of hate.
" Decidedly, decidedly, I must leave Persia," I
thought, weeping in the carriage.
" Mogdoussi ? " exclaimed the queen when I related
the incident. " Why does your Prophet Messiah
tolerate upon the earth her impious feet ? "
I learned that half a century ago this shrew had been
a veritable houri. The English ambassador, having
seen her one morning gathering figs at the entrance
of her father's garden, was amazed at the antique
quality of her grave and serene beauty. He sent at
once to her parents and bought her for an enormous
sum, and during ten years she was the delight of the old
milord. A gentleman and a Christian, in leaving
Persia to take for himself a wife among his own people,
the ambassador sent Mogdoussi with her parents to
kiss the tomb of the Redeemer. This having made them
all saints, on their return from Palestine the Christian
world welcomed them as this rank deserved. The old
bowed to the earth, the children piously kissed the
hems of their garments and begged their benediction.
This story dissolved all my perplexities. I decided
to imitate the example of Mogdoussi ; that is to say,
after having a little sinned, to go to kiss the tomb of
Christ and then to return to my country to die highly
A bishop warmly praised my intention, and gave
me a letter addressed to our Patriarchs at Jerusalem.
He recommended me highly to the Grand Pontiff, and
asked for me the title of Mogdoussi. Sealed with the
episcopal ring, this letter was carried against my heart.
I prepared myself then to leave Persia.
All the household of Envar-ed-Doule united in
equipping me for the long journey. Having no confi-
dence in banks, the queen and her mother fastened
around my waist a belt heavy with gold coins. They
suspended from one of my arms a silken purse filled with
silver, and from the other a bag of copper money to
be distributed to the beggars along the route. Several
talismans, hung around my neck, protected me from
demons or the evil eye of the wicked.
The thing which troubled me was a hard piece of
paper called " Passport." Finding it impossible to
carry anywhere, I at last adjusted it on my head in the
folds of my hair. Every one assured me that among
Europeans I would be taken for a rogue without this
paper, and that if I lost it I would be locked in dun-
geons. This prospect so terrified me that every moment
I assured myself that the paper was still in my coiffure.
The hour of my departure arrived. The camels
waited outside the gates. The queen embraced me ;
Nadir wept. Tahia, who was to be sent back to the
house of Assatour-Khan, prostrated herself to kiss my
feet. Little Suhun, holding her child in her arms,
kissed my hands and splashed them with her tears.
The Arabian groom laid at my feet a rose of Assyria
and a pomegranate. Hadji- Khanoum, the decrepit old
sinner, hobbling on her crutches, offered me the last
possession she treasured — a dagger from the sacred land
of Mecca and Medine. A little apart from the women
the Princes Kemal, Zelil and Aboubekir, in their sar-
daris of black silk and their astrakhan caps, stood with
their heads bowed to their breasts and their arms
crossed in the gesture of respect. Before the adorable
old mother, Envar-ed-Doule, I prostrated myself in
gratitude for the maternal aif ection she had shown me,
a stranger and a Christian. She gave me her bene-
I placed myself upon the back of the kneeling camel.
With a grunt, he rose, lifting me high above the turban
of his master. All was ready. With the slow motion
of a boat on the waves, I was carried away from the iron
gates beyond which I had been so loved and so happy.
The noises of the streets surged around me, terrifying
as the voice of a strange sea. I turned my head to see
for the last time, through my veils, the walls of the safe
harbour I was leaving for ever, but I could not see them
for my tears.
Towards Jerusalem : Across the
IT was evening. On the desert, between the vague-
ness of sky and the vagueness of the vast level earth,
we made our little camp. A tiny fire cast red light and
black shadow on the small tents of striped silk. The
camels, kneeling, ate their handfuls of date-seeds from
the handkerchiefs spread before them. Far away a
The full moon rose slowly, the desert became a lake
of silver. The camels slept, the camel-drivers lay
wrapped in their rugs. In their tents my two com-
panions, old pilgrims going to Mecca, slept without a
sound. The jackal was still.
In all the universe, no sound, no movement. Only
the pale moon, drowning the stars in its light. Not a
tree, not a blade of grass. No horizon, no border
between the silver mist of desert and the silver mist of
sky. The universe dissolved into the mystery of light.
In the silence, far away, a tinkling of little bells, the
silver bells that follow with their rhythm the slow steps
of the caravan camels. A voice comes out of the desert,
singing to the moon.
It is the voice of the camel-driver, complaining of the
solitude. It is the lament of the lonely soul, the thirst
for the impossible, the longing of the fugitive for rest.
" Aman ! Ah aman ! " He is reproaching life for its
shadows of death, for the death that he sees in this sky
in this moon that he adores and that soon he will no
longer see. The song itself dies in the vast silence. It
is gone. Where ?
Everything loses its contours. Where am I ? What
am I ? A light melted into this immensity of light,
lost, dissolved. . . .
An imperceptible melody touches my ears. Is it the
song of the stars dancing around the moon ? Is it my
body singing with happiness ? Is it my soul, reaching
the unattainable ? It is the mystic rapture of being
one with the night and the moon. It exists, then. . . .
The sun appears and restores form and outline to
the earth. The desert is the desert, a floor of sand
reflecting the heat of the solid sky. I am I, weary in a
weary body. My soul is sobered ; no longer lost in
immensities, it takes up the burden of to-day. Has it
lost for ever the way to that mystic happiness ? No ;
some day, somewhere, I shall find again that incom-
We reached Baku, where I stopped to embrace my
mother. She lived in our old caravanserai, the sole bits
of debris left to us from the splendour of my childhood.
Tired and worn with sorrows, she took me tenderly in
her arms, and her tears fell on my cheek when she lifted
her veils to kiss me.
In the bare rooms of this poor house a few bits of rare
pottery and an antique mirror contrasted strangely with
their surroundings. Rahim, the son of our Tartarian
baker, had saved them for me, during the burning of
our great house. When, after our ruin and the death
of my father, he learned that I had been married and
was in Persia, he had shed tears.
ACROSS THE CAUCASUS
" Allah bless Khanoum Gucusal," he said after a
short silence. " I have a marriage present for her,
may she deign to accept it."
Imagine my joy, after these years, to see again this
mirror and these vases from our dear burned house !
At what risk he must have carried them away, in order
to offer them to me !
He was married now, and no longer the son of a baker,
but a baker himself. Though his shop was at the other
end of the city, he still faithfully supplied my mother's
household with bread, refusing all payment, and he
still called her always, " Gondii Khanoum ; Madame,
Sitting on the threadbare rugs, her hand in mine, my
mother told me all these things, and asked me innumer-
able questions. The gossip of the Caucasians, whose
fancy had woven the most fantastic stories about my
wound, had informed her of that.
" Tell me," she asked, " what gave you this wound ? "
" A hunter, my mother ; a hunter who did not
know that I was hidden in the grass."
" Kind God ! I might then have lost you, little
flower of my garden ! " She clasped me in her arms,
and her adoring face, filled with tenderness, told me
what happiness she must have given my father, she who
was still so ardent and so beautiful.
She enclosed me within the garden of her love, as
though her heart forewarned her of the fate that
awaited me. However, she knew nothing of my life,
and thought that he whose name I bore was waiting
for me in Turkey.
As for me, knowing that I must in some manner
provide for myself, I had the intention of dancing for
d.s. 207 o
the Sultan during the festival of Bayram. The Tur-
kish Empire was no longer ruled by the terrible Red
Sultan, and to dance for a Turk who did not massacre
Christians did not seem to me at all sinful. In those
days we imagined that with the downfall of Abdul
Hamid the world had forgotten for ever the words, war,
massacre and tyranny. Remembering that my dances
had pleased the Persian Shah, I confidently hoped to
earn by my poetic art the praises of the Sultan as well,
and to receive from him presents that would pave my
way onward to Jerusalem.
The few days that I spent with my mother at Baku
were varied by strange emotions. On the second day
after my arrival I received a visit from Knarik (The
Lyre), a young girl, frail and pathetic. She was endur-
ing the tragedy of her life. The story that she poured
into my ears was the refrain of the eternal song ; she
loved and had been loved ; her lover had tired of her
and loved another, and the jackals of jealousy and pride
were tearing her heart.
" You, you too," she said, " I see it in your eyes — you
are weary of life. Do you not desire always to die, to lie
down in darkness and never rise again ? " And she
proposed that we should depart together for the other
At that moment the dark shores no longer allured me.
" All things pass," I said to her. " There is a way
that will carry you across all the rivers of sorrow." And
I counselled her to mock everything a little, especially
Knarik was shocked by this advice.
" Seriously, Knarik, live for the sun," said I.
" For the sun ..." she repeated, shrugging her
ACROSS THE CAUCASUS
shoulders. And she went away without saying another
That same evening we learned that she had poisoned
herself. Her body lay unburied in the cemetery :
the Christians refused to bury it. I wrapped myself in
a cloak, determined to go to her, although my mother
protested. A furious wind was rocking all the ships
in the harbour ; the very earth was flying from it in
clouds of sand and small stones. " What comfort can
you bring to the dead ? " said my mother.
But it seemed to me that I could bring her back to
life, that now I could find the right words to speak to
The streets were deserted. In the cemetery the
cypresses bent groaning in the torrents of air. Beneath
them Knarik lay in a coffin torn open by the wind.
Her long and heavy hair crawled like serpents on the
slabs. They were alive, those tortured locks ; some
rose into the air and coiled back in despair, others crept
into the coffin to come out again, frightened. They
trembled, they writhed, they suffered. And it seemed
to me that from their midst she, the ardent and
capricious Knarik, was speaking to me again of her
I fled, feeling that those serpents were running after
me to crawl up my veils.
Naive, as arc all Orientals, Knarik had believed that
death would unite her to her lover by indissoluble
bonds. But he married soon afterward ; he is now
the father of a family, and nourishes tenderly a pretty
little round stomach of prosperity.
To blot that memory from my mind, I went the
next day to visit the celebrated artist, Asnive (The
Noble), who wished to read to me her memoirs. She
was a beautiful girl, proud and gay, with eyes like black
clouds in which the lightning sleeps. Her gestures were
imperious, and her steps haughty. She received me in
a rich room, among cushions of every colour and
innumerable precious tables and mirrors.
She mocked the Knariks. Herself proud, passionate
and commanding, she had conquered life, and forced it
on its knees to give her everything she wished to have.
What had she not seen, this girl of Stamboul ?
Abandoned in the world, an orphan, penniless and
hungry, at eleven years of age, she had become the
imperious idol of all Turkey, she had aroused the
passions of the Grand Pasha himself, played with him,
flaunted him, refused him, preferring the joys of a
wandering life to the dull respectability of a harem.
" And one day not long after," she told me, " I was
obliged to cut and sell my beautiful hair for a few
pieces of gold. But what could I do ? I had seen a
beautiful brocade that I desired for a gown."
I listened to her with admiration and envy. What
would I not give for such a spirit ? A spirit that
disdained and broke all bonds, that feared nothing,
dared everything, conquered and threw away without
regrets, what an armour in which to fight the battle
of life, the battle in which every one is wounded to
death ! She began to read to me her memoirs.
She had begun her career in the Great Square of
Stamboul, during the fete that celebrated the circum-
cision of the sons of the Sultan. These fetes lasted
weeks ; the streets were a blaze of lights, the coffee-
houses crowded, the gardens filled with song and
ACROSS THE CAUCASUS
feasting until dawn. From all this she rose like a
fire-dragon into the sky of Stamboul, a dancer for
whom the city went mad. Her feet walked on men's
hearts, her caprices beggared the wealthiest ; they
called her " Eyes of Fire."
For four years she had upset the hearts of all Asia ;
she had danced, sung, loved, hated, and now, still
young, she had retired from the feasts to keep them in
her memory before a hearth-fire at the borders of the
While she was reading to me her record of these
memories, a little monster, a senselessly grinning idiot,
came in and offered me a tray on which were cups of
Turkish coffee. I trembled with horror.
" He is my child," Asnive said to me, " the chastise-
ment of my sins, the victim of one of my angers."
In one of her fits of passion she had beat upon the
floor the head of this miserable child.
I came away from her house, uncertain whether I
most admired or regarded with horror the beautiful
That evening I went to the house of my Aunt Nar-
cissus, to condole with my cousin Satins in her sorrow ;
death had taken from her her young husband.
" Sister," she said to me, weeping, " if you had seen
his face beautiful and serene in his shrouds, you would
not have been able to believe that on his death-bed,
while he was dying, he tried to strangle me in order
to take me with him into the other world."
I returned to my mother's house, troubled. After
melancholy and gentle Persia, the Caucasus appeared
to me tragic and horrible. It was no longer the Cau-
casus of my childhood, the Caucasus of orchards and
fruitful vines, where I had so much loved the song of
the grasshoppers and the murmur of the cascades. It
was now the Caucasus of the passionate and romantic
soul, barbarous and cruel, indomitable in its rebellious
barbarism. I found myself alien to all these dramas of
naked souls and unchained passions.
To reach the shores of the Black Sea in the west I
must cross the Caucasus from one end to the other, and
I planned to stop at Tiflis, where my Aunt Vosky (Gold)
lived with her daughter Astrik (Star). Georgia was the
country of my grandmother, a Mingrelienne, and my
imagination pictured brightly a visit of several days
among the care-free Georgians.
I should say just what Georgia is. In the official
schools we were told that Georgia was a province of
Russia, of which the largest city was Tiflis. That was
all we were taught about it. At home, my father said
to us, " The beautiful kingdom of Georgia, of which
Tiflis is the capital, is the heart of our Caucasus."
Knowing the peculiar story of Georgia, it is difficult
to say which opinion was right. The kingdom had been
indeed independent. But the chiefs of Mingrelie, of
Imerethis, and of Cachetie, three different Georgian
tribes, disputed without ceasing. The neighbouring
tribes, heathen and Mussulman, profited by these
disputes to invade the Georgian territory. Tired of
these endless quarrels, and exhausted by combat
against the nomads, the King of Georgia decided to ask
help of the Tsar. He had a document prepared,
praying for the protection of Russia, and having
sealed it with his seal he took the noblest of his princes
ACROSS THE CAUCASUS
and went himself to offer the document to the Tsar.
He was received in St. Petersburg with the best grace
in the world. To show the honour in which he was
held at the Russian court, the Tsar placed his own body-
guard around the Georgian king, and himself generously
urged the princes to keep their own costumes. These
garments, of a dazzling and noble picturesqueness,
added to the beauty of the Caucasians, made the
princes the sensation of all St. Petersburg. They were
the favourites of the court, and the noble Russian
ladies neglected no efforts to make them forget their
homesickness for their mountains.
Unfortunately, their king soon died, and little by little
the princes, in the midst of fetes and entertainments
like those of Paradise, ceased to think of their beautiful
Georgia, and sold to the Russians their castles built
among the cliffs.
Soon after the death of the king the document that
he had brought vanished in the enormous archives of
the Tsar. For convenience, too, the name of Georgia
disappeared, being replaced by " the province of
Tiflis." And all this happened so quietly that without
suspecting it Georgia had become a part of the Russian
Only a few faithful patriots still remembered the
kingdom of Georgia and dreamed of her recovered
independence. They met in quiet places among their
cliffs to consider what steps to take. But these confer-
ences ended in disputes with the Armenians among
them, who demanded, when Georgia was freed, the
little bit of the country called Zanguc/.our, which
Armenian horsemen with the aid of a fire-dragon had
conquered a little while before the Flood. And the
discussions ended with the clashing of drawn daggers,
until the Cossacks arrived and carelessly dispersed the
Next day, the good wine of Cachetie made them
forget it all, patriotism and independence and the little
bit of Zanguezour. Gathered around a blazing bonfire,
they sang and danced to the sound of the tambourines.
And from time to time, remembering the prison-for-
tress of Metzket where their chiefs languished in
dungeons, their blood flamed with desire for vengeance,
they swept the air with horns filled with foaming wine,
and threatened the Tsar to burn all Russia on their
The fete which these Georgians gave for the viceroy
on my arrival in Tiflis completely upset that old
In a ring of blazing torches he sat helpless while a
number of handsome mountaineers executed before
him the Dance of the Swords, while I danced in the
midst of the flashing blades the famous " lezguinka "
of the mountains. His face whirled before me, pale
with terror ; his trembling hands clutched the arms of
his great chair ; he turned his head piteously from side
to side. And when, thrusting our naked swords toward
him with our habitual abandon, we caught a glimpse
of his eyes amidst the glittering of the steel, they were
staring like those of a trapped animal.
The viceroy died a few days later. Perhaps the
emotions he had felt had contributed to shorten his
After this fete, I was offered two banquets. The
first was in a great house, among the Society of Tiflis,
and left me few memories. But the second, given me
ACROSS THE CAUCASUS
by a sword-merchant, was one of the most singular of all
We settled ourselves on the divans around the table
at noon, and did not leave them until dawn.
During the whole day, I heard only, " Flower of my
soul, taste this ; it is made expressly for you. Light of
our eyes, this little partridge was killed for you alone,
and the raisins with which it is stuffed were gathered
by my grandfather, who tastes at this moment the
celestial grapes in the vineyards of Our Father and His
Son and the Holy Ghost." Here, at the sound of these
sacred names, -a large sign of the cross, repeated by the
" And this good wine of Cachetie, and this melon
from Charjou — eat, little dove. Deign to accept
these grapes from Ourmi, and this dish of our grain,
which the sun has ripened in expectation of your
coming. Bright-winged Queen Bee, this morning I
rose before the dawn, that I might offer you an unfor-
gettable souvenir — ah, here it is ! " And there was
set before me a bowl filled with the milk of mares.
Could I draw back before such splendour of good will ?
But my situation became every moment more des-
perate before this obligation to eat everything urged
upon me by this excellent merchant, who thought me
thin and assured me that plumpness would beautify me.
And I ate. I ate with the resignation of a martyr, of
a saint. I ate desperately without seeing or hearing,
until even my imagination could no longer picture a
miracle that would rescue me from this fete.
After twelve hours of eating, at midnight the appear-
ance of a whole new scries of dishes overcame me ; I
began to weep.
" It is loneliness," the kindly merchant explained to
the astonished guests. " This unfortunate little one
has only an aunt in all this immense Tiflis. Ehe, you ! "
he called to the musicians, " sing for this orphan !
Sing, ' O my native prairies, mountains and abysses.'
And you, little core of my soul, dry your tears and taste
this honey made by your own wild bees of Shamahka."
And again the musicians began to sing, and I — to eat.
Toasts in my honour, jewelled with incredible hyper-
boles, mingled with the songs of the musicians. From
time to time some one would dance, accompanied by
clapping of hands from the whole assembly. And all
these sounds, this movement, the lights reflected on
silver and copper and silks, had for me the quality of a
nightmare. I saw them as one in the delirium of
torture sees the heated irons and the shadows of his
tormentors, and I swallowed, swallowed desperately and
for ever, while from time to time a tear stole down my
Finally, at the first crow of the cock, I was permitted
to reach my bed.
That same evening I was to dance again, because, the
first success having turned my head, I had promised to
dance a second time at the Opera. We have, then, an
Opera ! Ah yes, indeed, the ugly centre of Tiflis,
European with a colouring of Russia, offers everything
that the Parisian finds at home, here in the capital of
Therefore at noon my aunt aroused me, and to over-
come the effects of that incredible banquet she led me
to the warm baths that spout from the rocks near Tiflis.
After spending a few hours lying in the pools of
ACROSS THE CAUCASUS
nearly boiling water that smell like rotten eggs, we came
out dying with fatigue. A long robe covered my
trembling body, a few shawls draped my head and
shoulders. Surrounded by all their tinsel, my nose
shone like a poppy in bloom. My very eyeballs, like
those of the owls, were encircled with red.
" Let us stop to see my new jewels," my aunt pro-
posed, halting our carriage before the shop of a jeweller.
" Very well," I said, past caring about my appearance.
The jeweller showed us some designs, but hurriedly
and without interest. He feared that the delay would
cost him his chance to get a place at the Opera, to see
the charming dancer of Shamahka. He spread before
us with a careless hand the golden ornaments that he
had chiselled, in which we saw reproduced, beneath the
contours of mountains as light as clouds, fantastic pea-
cocks, eagles and gazelles. He poured upon us extrav-
agant praises of the dancer, more beautiful than the
moon and the evening star, more graceful than smoke
in a gentle breeze.
Vosky glanced at me laughing.
" More beautiful than my niece ? " she asked him.
The jeweller looked at me with disdain. " I do not
wish to say that your niece is ugly," he replied ; " but it
is impossible to compare the day with the night."
" Have you then lost the light of your eyes ? " my
aunt laughed. " For here is your dancer of Sha-
" Aunt ! " I cried, to stop her, but it was too late.
It was not at all vanity that spoke in me. No, but
here I saw an artist with a soul. In the jewels that lie
created I saw the artist's dream of the impossible
beauty. I saw mountains like those that touch cclcs-
tial skies, creatures that browse on the flowers of Para-
dise. The lakes he had designed were circles filled with
winged fish. Undoubtedly his imagination had made
of his dancer a being also as unreal, as winged and golden
as his designs. In identifying my person with that of
the Almee who had kindled his soul at the fete of the
torches, my aunt had assassinated his dream.
The poor jeweller could not at first believe it.
But seeing my denials sincerely contradicted by my
aunt, " Oh, what have you told me, madame ! " he said
sadly, his eyes filling with tears. I, too, was on the verge
It was then that I understood that a dancer is more
than a woman ; that she is a dream, and that to preserve
it she should show the world only her unreal self.
Perhaps some day I shall regret having shown in
these pages the reality behind the veils. But ... It
amuses me for the moment ; that is all I ask of these
The morning after my success at the Opera, three
youths of Akoulis came to beg me to take part in a
fete which was to be given for Mary, the Mother of
Christ, in their city.
" We wish to play ' The Brigands,' by Schiller.
The heroes of that play are not very different from us.
As for scenery, what more could we desire than our own
cliffs ? Will you play the role of Amalie ? "
" But I have no European robes."
" A long Caucasian chemise and unbound hair is all
that is necessary."
" But what will the role be ? "
" You read something to Franz, an old, ugly creature
ACROSS THE CAUCASUS
who is in love with you, while all your dreams are for
Carlos, the bandit. You will have to weep a little."
" It is, then, a tragedy ! Never would I know how ! "
" You need only sigh at each word."
Their prayers were so moving and their sorrowful
eyes so pleading that at last I consented.
That afternoon I left Tiflis to accompany them to
their city, a former Armenian capital hung above an
abyss in the heart of the wild mountains that surround
Mount Ararat. Never will I forget that journey up
the savage cliffs, once drowned beneath the waters
that carried the ship of the patriarch Noah.
The sun was descending when, the mules being
unable to climb higher on the precipitous trails, we
dismounted from the saddles to go on foot. The
desert and the cliffs were a reddish mauve beneath a
sky rosy with sunset. The air was the colour of red
wine. Our flesh appeared to be of bronze, and it
seemed to me that our very robes exhaled light.
Akoulis, capital of Armenia before the days of Ghen-
gis Khan, has kept its air of primitive times. Within
its walls, amid houses cut in the living rock and covered
with wild vines, a torrent with a thousand cascades falls
into an abyss. The hundreds of rifles fired in honour
of my arrival did not cover the sound of its roaring.
We were met by Ovi, the young ruler of Akoulis, who
led me to his house, where I was received by all the chief
men of the city. Ovi, a veritable hero of Schiller's
fancy, was to play the part of Carlos.
And we played Schiller, on the verge of the cascade.
Our audience crouched upon the roofs, clung to the
branches of the trees, hung on the vines. A row of
torches were our footlights, the roar of the waters our
orchestra, and the sighs of the listeners mingled with
sighs of the trees. It was a setting truly Schillerian.
The fame of the spectacle reached even Lower
Akoulis in the depths of the abyss. A delegation came,
begging us to show " the European bandits " to them.
After the play, by the light of torches, we placed our
theatrical costumes upon an ass, and began the climb
back to Upper Akoulis. The moon lighted our way.
The climb up the walls of the canon was almost
perpendicular. I was advised to cling to the tail of
the ass, which I did, and the ass, accustomed thus to
aid the women of these mountains, generously supported
Arriving weary at the house of Ovi, we could not
leave the beauty of the Araratian night. We mounted
to the roof and remained awake, sitting at the edge of
this flat rock which was the verge of the precipice.
The poplars trembled in a wind. Small and pale,
the moon hastened through the clouds. On the
heights above us a storm thundered like an old man in
anger, and the cascades, frightened, flung themselves
into the darkness far below. The abyss became darker
and darker. The white cliffs that walled it seemed a
tomb. An ocean of fog rose to the rim of the moun-
tains. The abyss was swallowed in its waves ; only our
roof-top remained visible on a white sea.
I thought of Noah. In his ark he must have felt
himself as isolated and lost in space as we upon this roof.
It was with sincere regret that I left that savage and
beautiful spot guarded from the world by jagged and
indomitable cliffs. Accompanied by the sound of tam-
ACROSS THE CAUCASUS
bourines from all the roofs, I said farewell to my host
and began to descend the trails. An escort of moun-
taineers accompanied me as far as Djoulfa, where I
embarked on a train for Batoum.
That train, as rapid as a caravan of camels, enchanted
me. Rarely does one see in our countries such a
Under lock and key, in one of its boxes, I felt myself a
prisoner. The motion of the train, its noise and its
speed, combined with the sense of those enclosing walls
to terrify me. But the amiable conductor stopped the
train whenever we asked it, and allowed us to gather
flowers, to chase butterflies, or to rest from the fatigue
of the journey on sunny hill-sides. For all that, we
travelled with almost the speed of a caravan, and arrived
at Batoum in four days.
The Black Sea roared before me. Its waves spat foam
on the shores. For the first time I lost heart for the
journey, and asked myself why I had undertaken to
venture alone among all the perils of the world.
" Why is it called the Black Sea ? " I asked.
" Because," I was told, " its sombre sky shadows its
waves and whirlpools filled with the dead."
That night, I well remember, I slept badly.
Towards Jerusalem : Constantinople and
I HAD left the Caucasus three days before, on a little
boat that miserably made its way across the stormy
waves of the Black Sea. It was dawn. We were
entering the waters of the Bosphorus. On the deck,
wrapped in a cloak, I stood watching the sky grow
light. In the grey waters rocks as sharp as the teeth of
sea-monsters showed here and there. They were the
Islands of the Princes.
Before us appeared the cupolas, the minarets, the
wooden houses of Constantinople. Thousands of boats
passing beneath the bridges gave the city a merry aspect.
For thirty years the hate of Abdul Hamid for the
race of his mother, an Armenian dancer, had made of
this city a slaughter-house. For thirty years not an
Armenian could enter or leave it, under pain of death.
I had letters to many friends of my friends, who
offered to show me Constantinople. My first visit was
to the mosque of Aya Sophia. The exterior, encum-
bered with crowded buildings, told me nothing. Its
coloured walls still bore traces of the Grecian paintings
of Byzance, which had been covered by a rough layer
of whitewash. Only a wing here, a head there, appeared
to protest against the barbarism of the conquerors.
Within, the immense dome gave me an impression of
the infinity of the sky. I understood why the fierce
CONSTANTINOPLE AND GREECE
Sultan Mahomet himself, entering it on horseback, had
been overcome by the genius of the artist who had
created this temple.
" It is indeed the house of God," he said, and he
dismounted from his saddle. But the sincerity of his
admiration did not at all hinder the good Mussulman
from defacing the precious paintings, because according
to Mohammed the prophet, images profane the
I decided to spend my short time in Constantinople
in learning that which most interested me : the Turkish
woman and her art of the dance. Therefore, instead of
dancing for the Sultan, I conceived the idea of giving a
charitable spectacle among Turkish women, knowing
that my dances, the Persian music and my Caucasian
robes would greatly interest them.
Two Armenians, who at that time occupied the happy
posts of vizirs, proposed that I should present this
idea to the Turks. I was invited to a meeting of the
Committee of Beneficence.
I arrived, then, in a magnificent hall. A few
Turkish officers, appearing to be amiable, questioned me
in French to prevent my speaking the Tartarian of the
Caucasus which they did not understand. They sug-
gested that, instead of giving a fete for the women, I
organize a grand gala performance for the men, which
the ladies would be invited to sec from loges hung with
I hesitated, asking myself if the Christians would not
be shocked to see me dancing in my light robes before
the Turks. To gain time, I asked to what purpose
the receipts would be devoted.
d.s. 223 p
" To the building of the new Ottoman fleet," they
" Well," I answered, laughing, " I am sure that my
compatriots will applaud me if I give this fete on the
condition that during the massacres the fleet will be
friendly to the Armenians."
I had forgotten that I was in Turkey, and that one
does not speak of the rope in the house of the hangman.
A sombre silence was my reply. Frightened by the
effect of my words, I sought vainly a relenting glance.
A brutal anger was revealed in every face.
" Since you speak to us of massacres, Effenden," one
of the officers said at last, " permit me to tell you that,
if the Armenians are massacred, it is because they
themselves wish it."
" I regret, sir, that I cannot understand the pleasure
of having one's self massacred," I replied coldly, rising
to leave. He tried to detain me to explain how the
Armenians bring the massacres upon themselves, but
in my anger I did not dare even to discuss the
It is as Anatole France said in his discourse at the
Sorbonne : " As the unhappy inspire most men with
distaste, one seeks to find the fault in the victims,
reproaching them for their weakness. Some, taking
up the defence of the butchers, show them as chastising
sedition, or revenging the Turkish population upon
We alone, Armenians and Turks, know the true
causes of the slaughter ; the fear of the Turks that
their country will be taken from them in fifty years by
the Armenians, who multiply themselves as do all
conscientious races, and the hatred of a barbarous
CONSTANTINOPLE AND GREECE
conqueror for the superior culture of a defeated
Regaining my own house, I reminded myself that it
is hardly six centuries since the Turks abandoned their
nomad life, and that in installing themselves at Stam-
boul (the very name means " Found "), they found the
Greeks and the Armenians, who gave to the Occident
and to Asia Minor their ancient culture. Fifteen
centuries ago, the Armenian archives contained already
the most precious parchments, from which the bards of
all countries drew knowledge. It is easily understood
that the only means by which a conquering barbarian
can subdue a people of superior culture is to extermin-
ate them. This slaughter is the only defence which
Turkey has against a culture which imposes itself by its
inherent value, and which in reality will everywhere
Yet I greatly admire the Turkish women, who are
truly beautiful and worthy of admiration. But is this
beauty not due to those innumerable beautiful
Armenians who, during six centuries, have coloured the
blood of the high-checked Mongolian race ? Europe
does not know the numbers of adolescents who have
disappeared into the Turkish harems. How many
times, in six centuries, we have received the order to
present on such a day so much gold, so many horses,
and so many virgins and youths ! And all this youth
and beauty, become Mussulman by force, has dis-
appeared into the harems, to contribute there its grace
to the next Turkish generation.
All these reflections, however, did not prevent
my rash words from ending my first attempt to
approach the Turk.
There still remained for me to know the Turkish
women. I awaited impatiently the visit of a lady
which had been announced to me. She arrived one
day at my house, preceded by a servant, both con-
cealed in black veils.
They unveiled themselves. The lady was a young
Turk about twenty years old. Her eyes, in spite of
her smile, expressed sorrow. She sharply reminded me
of some one. All my mind was given to the search for
that elusive resemblance. What was my surprise when
I realized at last that she reminded me of — myself !
After the customary greetings I offered them coffee,
and waited for them to explain the aim of their visit.
We were seated upon a broad divan, the servant
squatting near us on the carpet. Lit by the sun, my
house was like a lantern sailing above the waters of the
Bosphorus. A voluptuous wind came softly through
the windows, bringing the distant murmur of the city.
" My name is Nasle Khanoum," said the young
Turk. " All Stamboul knows of me."
" My mistress is the most beautiful of all the women
of Stamboul," said the servant, thus revealing to me
that she had been the lady's nurse.
" I have learned," continued the lady, " that you
wish to give a fete in public. I have come to propose
to you a small intimate entertainment, for the pleasure
of my friends. Would you be willing to come to my
house ? If you think that loose tongues might speak
lightly of this little affair, ah, well ! we will collect a
few paras, which we will distribute next day to the
poor. Does the idea please you, Khanoum ? "
I found the idea amusing, and, thinking that I saw
before me one of the most renowned of Turkish
CONSTANTINOPLE AND GREECE
courtesans, I accepted the offer. She hugged me
delightedly, kissed me with tenderness, and uttered a
thousand charming compliments. Seeing my photo-
graph, she kissed it and hid it beneath her robes.
Then, always laughing, and speaking rapidly, some-
times in French, sometimes in Turkish, she left,
delighted by my promise.
I called my servant, an Armenian of the provinces,
who hardly knew her own language, speaking only
Turkish, as many do who fear the massacres and prefer
to pass for Turks, although in their hearts remaining
" Do you know some one who is called Nasle
Khanoum ? "
" Every one knows her better, Elfenden, than the
light of his own eyes."
" Who is her father ? "
" A great pasha, Effenden."
" And her mother ? "
" A Christian like myself, EiTcndcn. But God keep
you from saying to her that her mother was Christian.
She would tear your eyes out."
" Where is she, this mother ? "
" May God illumine her soul and open to her the
gates of Paradise ! At the age of thirteen years she
was led to the harem of the Pasha, she was baptized
Mussulman, and her name Hamass was changed to
Fatma. She went from this world at the end of a few
years of tears and sorrow. Nasle is her daughter."
" Is she married, this Nasle ? "
" Unhappily, Effenden, no. Being mocked for her
Christian origin by the children of the other wives of
the Pasha, she was unable to endure their insults. She
fled to her nurse, who brought her up as her own
" And her father has never reclaimed her ? "
" If she were a boy, Effenden, he would certainly do
so, but she is a girl, and therefore of no value, as you
know. She was left to live as seemed good to her.
However, Effenden, what does it matter how one
lives ? All of us will one day go under the earth, and
the good will be food for worms, no less than the
This story interested me very much, and I im-
patiently awaited the day of the fete, when I would see
Nasle Khanoum again.
She lived in the purely Asiatic quarter, among the
vegetable markets, in a street where the merchants went
by singing their merchandise. The exterior of the
house was poor, the court was small and dingy. But
on entering the doors I felt an atmosphere intimate
and picturesque. Divans along the four walls con-
tinued even as far as the moucharabia. The corners
of the rooms, draped with tapestries, formed little
tents, lighted by silver lamps encrusted with mother-
Nasle came flying to me, chattering French and
Turkish together. In an instant I was surrounded by
perhaps twenty Turkish women, who all talked at once.
One said that her mother was ill, and wept. Every one
embraced and consoled her, offering her cups of coffee,
drying her tears and begging her to laugh. We
settled ourselves upon the divans, taking little cups of
coffee and cigarettes from the trays which servants
offered. Every one was animated, gay and childishly
CONSTANTINOPLE AND GREECE
One after another the women danced and sang.
The sensuous songs and the chromatic scales shocked
my ears. I found this strange succession of notes
harsh and painful, and few of their dances reminded
me of the Caucasus. They were more sensuous and
much less spiritual than ours.
I showed them some of my dances, accompanying
myself with the grave songs of my country. When I
had finished them and seated myself beside Nasle, I
found her sad. She leaned her pretty head upon my
" I love your songs," she said. " They remind me
of those my mother sang to me in my infancy," and
" Why do you weep, Nasle ? "
" I do not know," she replied.
I pressed her against me. Perhaps I had awakened
in her the consciousness of her origin, she who carried
in her veins the Aryan blood of her mother.
" Will you be my sister for one night ? " she asked
me, drying her tears.
" Always," I replied. " What is it you desire ?
" Stay here in my home to-night."
She clapped her hands, laughing like a happy child.
When the other guests had gone, her nurse dressed
us in long chemises and hid our hair in turbans. Seeing
me appear thus as a Turk, Nasle laughed for minutes
together, like a crazy person. The old nurse served us
a little dinner upon a copper tray, and after bringing us
fresh water in which to wash our hands, she left us
Squatting on either side of a brazier, warming our
hands, we spent the whole night gossiping. From
time to time, caressing my bare arms and my hair,
Nasle said to me in her lazy voice, " Aman, aman !
How beautiful you are ! If I were only your hus-
band ! "
In spite of seeming so open and sincere by nature,
she disclosed to me nothing whatever of her life.
What she learned of mine was all that I myself knew.
When I spoke of love she said, " As for me, no. I
would not love even a vizir. Men are all alike ; only
their robes are different. The heart of none of them
is worth the paring of a finger-nail." She spoke with
Angry to have confided to her all my soul, I courte-
ously left her house in the morning, and did not see
again that artful one who concealed all her thoughts
beneath the appearance of so much intimacy.
A few days later I visited the house of a great
Turkish lady, where I found nothing interesting. The
furnishings were European, a style that has always
appeared to me tiresome and without beauty. The
women came hidden beneath their veils, but when they
rid themselves of these coverings, I saw before me the
Khanoums of Bouk-Dere, corseted and dressed like
One played on a piano the sonatas of Chopin, the
waltzes of Schumann. Another recited verses of
Lamartine and of Musset.
As I did not find picturesque these Asiatics with their
European pretensions, I left this house early without
having been amused.
CONSTANTINOPLE AND GREECE
It was night when I arrived at my gates. A desperate
barking seemed to come from a distance. What was
my horror to see near my knees the distorted face of
a man who barked like a dog, his eyes full of sad-
The blood became snow in my veins. I tried to cry
out, but had no voice. Happily, the door opened, and
I was supported half -fainting into the house.
He was a man bitten by a mad dog. In Constanti-
nople, madness is considered incurable, and these
unfortunates are abandoned to die in the streets.
The Turkish house in which I lived on the shores of
the Bosphorus adjoined that of two Frenchwomen who
had come from Paris to teach their language in the
capital of Turkey. They lived there with two Arabian
officers, pupils who had become their masters. The
two teachers, young and pretty, were deeply in love
with these handsome and charming men. A little
girl of sixteen years, Annette, served them all.
On the other side of my house I. had as neighbour a
Georgian whose temples were white with age. He had
never spoken to me, but in the evenings he sat at the
window of his moucharabia and played for hours the
melodies of my country. Every night I went to sleep
carried into mists of happiness by the little silver boat
of his music.
One evening as my lids were closing I was aroused
by a knocking at my door. " Who can be coming at
this hour ? " I asked myself, in surprise. My servant
was asleep. I opened the door.
It was Annette. Pale and faltering, she wept.
" What is the matter, poor Annette ? M 1 asked,
taking her in my arms. Silently she held out the
corpse of a tiny infant.
Trembling with horror, I supported her towards my
bed. What was to be done ? " Do not tell my
mistresses ! O my God, do not tell them ! " she
begged me, fainting. Her life seemed to be ebbing
away ; her hands were growing cold and her heart
hardly beat. I dared not call the servants, whose
gossip would spread the story through all the bazaars.
Suddenly an idea came to me. I went to my win-
dow, opened it, and knocked at the panes of the
Georgian. They opened, and I saw the astonished
face of my kindly old neighbour. " At such a late
hour ? " said his surprised eyes.
" Do not awaken anyone," I said to him in our
own language. " Come to me quickly."
In a moment he came in, perturbed. In the light
of the lamp by my bed he saw Annette. I was trying
to pour a few drops of wine between her white lips.
" She is dying," I said. " Help me to save her."
I showed him the child. He paled and drew back.
" Horrible ! " he murmured. Then, " A doctor
must be called."
He hurried away. When he returned with an old
doctor, there was still time to save Annette. The
doctor promised to cover the tragedy with his silence,
but he would not take away the little body. " I do
not take charge of that," he repeated firmly.
The Georgian took my trembling hand. " Do not
be afraid," he said. " To-night we will bury it in the
Bosphorus. Until I return, keep it under lock and
key in one of your chests."
That day was the most wretched of my whole life.
CONSTANTINOPLE AND GREECE
At evening, when I had dismissed the servants, the
Georgian entered through the window. He wrapped
in paper the little dead child, which seemed to be
sleeping. Profoundly moved by the little stiff body,
we were silent.
Wrapped in my veils, I met the Georgian outside my
gates, and we hastened to the water's edge without
saying a word. The Georgian helped me into a little
boat. " I have rented this skiff for the whole night,"
he said. " I am a good rower, and if you like, we may
stay on the water until dawn."
The Bospho'rus was more beautiful than a dream.
We seemed to be in an immense palace whose sapphire
walls were thickly set with diamonds. In the mirror
of the water the silver fire of the stars crossed the
golden fire from the windows of Turkish houses.
Many little boats were gliding in and out of the
shadows of the bridges. They were filled with
passengers who laughed and sang. Their stringed
instruments scattered clear notes behind them. Sharp
exclamations of boatmen, song and music coming from
the cafes, salty odours of the sea, nocturnal barking of
dogs, white wraiths of minarets — it seemed to me that
I was in the midst of a splendid fete where a gay and
nonchalant humanity gave itself freely to the embraces
of joyous life.
Far from the peopled ways, among the sleeping reeds,
the body of the child went slowly to the waters' depths.
We were soon in the open Bosphorus, in the path <>l
the moon. To bring me forgctfulncss, the Georgian
sang his mountain songs. Our boat swayed gently,
following the caprice of wind and water. Like a great
beehive, the city slept. Seagulls tore the air with
their spasmodic cries ; dolphins played heavily in the
" Soon he will be eaten by the crabs, the little child
to whom birth and death were one," I thought. It
seemed to me that all the border reeds were reproach-
ing the world because he would never know the strange
keen flavours of life.
" Oh, if he had been born in the house of Envar-ed-
Doule ! " I thought ; " how tenderly this little light
would have been sheltered. But on the borders of the
West the breath of civilization has extinguished it
before it burned."
I felt a cold wind blowing upon me from the dark-
ness that lay over those strange lands. Already a chill
was entering my blood, that had been so warmed by
the sun of the East.
After a spectacle given for the Valide-Sultane upon
a little island the name of which I have forgotten, I
was persuaded to leave Constantinople for Egypt, to
appear in the grand fete that X . . . Pasha was giving
on the anniversary of the Khedive's coronation.
This journey would allow me to see Greece, the
country of romance and legend, so much sung by our
poets under the name of Iounane.
To prepare myself for seeing with my eyes this
beautiful country I set myself to reading Homer. His
name had been known to me from my infancy, for the
biography of Ferdousi, which my father made us
learn by heart, began with these words, " The poet
Ferdousi, the Homer of Persia . . ." This began
and ended all my knowledge of Homer.
As much as Ulysses displeased me by his unscrupulous
CONSTANTINOPLE AND GREECE
tricks, his mean-spirited prudence, and his stupidity,
so much Homer himself captivated me by his descrip-
tions of nature and of the customs of the Greeks. I
found myself at home in his pages. I found there the
same patriarchal manners that are ours, the same
custom of the women to veil themselves and to live
separated from the men. The same garments, the
same weapons, the same improvised beds in the
alcoves, just as we have them at home. The same
hospitality, and the same sincere respect for foreigners
and for age.
In going to' Greece, then, I would not find myself
in a strange land.
But when, after passing the imposing Dardanelles
among the grey walls of the rocks, I disembarked in
Greece, I found there more of European Turkey of
to-day than of the Greece of Homer. The type of
the Greeks little resembled the homeric figure of
Ulysses. Small, swarthy and agile, they were more
like the debris of a great civilization, as their beautiful
ruins are the debris of their great cities.
The ruins of the Acropolis and of the Parthenon !
What pure and harmonious beauty ! These frag-
ments alone would make me humble before antiquity.
I kissed the marble body of a goddess ; time had made
it rosy as the skin of a blonde, and the sun had given it
the warmth of living flesh. What barbarian, to break
the frescoes of Philias, in order to carry them away as
trophies and lock them in the cold walls of museums !
The sun was sinking on the red horizon. Rose-
coloured was the dry country-side, rose-coloured the
contours of the mountains. This modern Athens
made me regret the Athens of long ago more than the
bazaars and gardens of Persia made me regret the
Persia of Cyrus and of Haroun-al-Raschid.
I realized that the beautiful antiquity of Greece
exists to-day only in my country, where it has been
preserved unchanged in the amber of our reverence
for ancient traditions.
Towards Jerusalem : Egypt
A YELLOW line traced between the sea and sky,
a few palm trees, frail and motionless — that is
We disembarked at Alexandria, by the lighthouse
which the ancients counted among the seven wonders
of the world.
The catacombs. We entered there, Arabian lan-
terns lighting for us the way that seemed to descend
toward hell. The bones, the urns, the cold and
darkness, all spoke of the adoration which the austere
Egyptians offered to Death. These walls, decorated
with golden images, were once witnesses of the Egyp-
tians in embroidered tunics, who descended these steps,
lighted by their torches, to render homage to their
dead. Humid, gloomy and bare, they repulse me
now by their nakedness. Quick, quick, let us fly from
this tomb toward the sunlight !
Leaving, I sought everywhere traces of Cleopatra.
In a fragment of ancient carving done by a Greek
sculptor, I saw her head. Dreamy and wilful, it is
indeed the Oriental character. This Grecian artist,
who perished many centuries ago, understood the
nature of the great lovers of Asia, the profound and
terrible passions of those queens, Balkis, Shamiram,
the Marys of Magdala. . . .
Dreaming before this fragment of stone that remem-
bered the glorious Cleopatra, I recalled the legend of
Semiramis and the great king, Ara the Beautiful.
This legend says that Shamiram (Semiramis), intoxi-
cated by the praises of their king, Ara the Beautiful,
sung by the Armenian minstrels of Babylon, gave him
her heart. She languished in her gardens among the
sickly trees that sighed, like her, in the sands of the
desert. She hated her austere palace and her little
courtesans, thin and slight, and her artificial gardens
that, like a mirage, made her thirst for the virgin
woods of her own country, where, free and happy, she
had been only a little princess.
How, then, could she resist the charm of the poems
sung to her by the Armenian singers ? They sang of
their country of prairies watered by the Tigris and the
Euphrates, and of the splendour of Ara the Beautiful,
whose glory stretched from the Red Sea to the Black,
and from the snows of Ararat to the desert of Shama.
This king had been born from the embrace of the Sea
with the Earth ; the Sky was the witness of this love,
sang the minstrels. A red reed rose from the red
sea, from this red reed shot a flame, and from this
flame rose an adolescent. His hair was of fire, and his
eyes were two suns, and his soul was the sea.
Shamiram loved this king, Ara the Beautiful, and she
sent her ambassadors to beg him to come to Babylon
to honour her fetes. But Ara refused this honour ; he
repulsed her love. The charms of the Queen of
Babylon troubled him. His people would pay dearly
for the intoxications their king might taste in the arms
of such an enchantress. He dared not come to
Shamiram had no hate, no anger, nor even resent-
ment, against this king who haunted her dreams, but
driven by the desire to see him, if only for one moment,
she declared war upon him. However, she threatened
with torture and death any of her soldiers who should
dare to injure one hair of his head.
Alas, in the ardour of battle, the error was made.
Struck by an arrow, Ara the Beautiful fell. At the
news of his death all the Armenians, old and young
and even children, rose to avenge him with the blood
of the conquerors.
The Babylonians, fearing for their lives, announced
to the people that the king was not dead, but a hostage
in their hands. And in order to save themselves until
the queen should arrive at the head of new troops,
they said that every evening Ara the Beautiful would
show himself to his people.
Every evening, in fact, the king appeared at his
window, acclaimed by throngs. Pale and beautiful,
in his royal robes, he smiled gravely. Happy to see
him every day, the Armenian people patiently awaited
the arrival of the Queen of Babylon.
Shamiram, at the head of her second army, has-
tened across the deserts, to punish the murderer of the
king whom she loved.
She appeared in her triumphal chariot. Proud and
impassive, she advanced toward the palace of Ara the
Beautiful. She entered the great throne-hall, where
the body of the king lay stretched out upon the
cushions. At that sight, Shamiram was no longer a
queen. A desolate woman, a lover mad with sorrow,
she threw herself upon the body of the king and
covered his face with tears and kisses. Such great
sorrow was sacred ; the guards kissed their swords in
sign of mourning, and retired to leave the queen alone
with the dead.
n.s. 239 Q
In the morning, heralds announced to the Armenian
people that their king, forced to lay his sceptre and his
sword at the feet of a woman, had killed himself for
pride ; that the Queen of Babylon was preparing his
funeral as though he were her husband ; that her
chariot would be draped in mourning, and that the
only song of the conquerors would be the funeral
chants for Ara the Beautiful. Touched by the tragic
love of Shamiram, the Armenians made no resistance
to their conquerors.
Thus does the Orient revere, even though she be an
enemy, one of the great lovers of Asia. The Occident
would make of her, undoubtedly, a hysterical and
perverted creature, such as Oscar Wilde makes the
young and chaste Salome.
But that fierce and poetic East is no longer in Egypt.
I stood on the spot where the palace of Cleopatra had
risen in a dream of beauty and passion. There remains
of it nothing but an old hut. I entered it. An odour
of onion and a close musty smell. An old Armenian
lives there. She was crouched on a divan ; a white veil
gathered into a head-band embroidered with pearls
covered her hair.
" I love to hear the whistling of the wind and the
surge of the sea," she said to me. " Then I feel happy,
thinking, ' I have a good fire and hot coffee, while many
others are dying of cold.' "
This is what remains of Cleopatra, in the very place
of her palace and her great loves !
The Arab quarter is the only picturesque part of
Cairo. All the rest is European. Between these two
quarters one finds a city of prostitutes, whose houses
are the first that Europeans build to civilize us. Here
one sees old English women, in baby dresses, painted
like clowns. They do a cake-walk, prancing ungrace-
fully on awkward legs. All this seduction, they say,
costs but a few cents to all passers-by.
This degradation of love, this trampling beneath
muddy boots so much of charm, of beauty, of poetry,
affected me even to tears. What human brutality could
so defile the temples of the spirit, so cruelly use the
hearts and bodies of women ? A profound nausea rose
from the depths of my soul. In vain I remembered
the cruelties of Asia, trying thus to school myself to
endure this spectacle of the barbarity of Europe. True,
we are cruel. But I recalled our great houses that offer
their shelter to the oppressed and unfortunate, I remem-
bered our women, queens in the houses of their hus-
bands or in the courts of love. With what ceremonies,
what offerings of poetry,of flowers, with what respectful
and sincere homage, the men of Asia succeed at last in
arriving as far as our singers, our reciters, our serpent-
charmers, and how much more must they offer of
devotion and ardour before they see the face of even
our littlest flower in the garden of love's joys !
No, no ! I shuddered, trying to forget this glimpse of
the incredible grossness and brutality of the civilized
West. What culture, what beauty, what health could
flow from a society which defiled the holiest temples,
which felt only amusement or indifference before the
sight of degraded womanhood ? I saw in the Occident
a monster, where I had expected a god.
Only at midnight, in the light of the moon, would I
go into the Sahara to gaze at the Sphinx. I had been
warned that during the day I would see upon her head
English women in tweed coats, and on the summits of
the pyramids American tourists peacefully enjoying
I saw the Sphinx ; she seemed to crouch there with
eyes upon the horizon, mocking by her indifference the
little peoples and civilizations that through thousands
of years have fought out their little quarrels around her,
even striking her with the balls from their cannon.
What could those balls do to her, though they be those
of Napoleon ? Her secrets, her mystery, only the
But it seemed to me that I saw in her my East ;
mystic, dreamy, sister of eternity, enduring with eyes
fixed on far horizons through all the centuries in which
the little western peoples rise and fall like gnats.
I saw also the pyramids. We entered one by a tiny
door, and after following, bent double, a long narrow
sandy corridor, we entered a funeral hall. The Arabian
guides lighted up with torches the walls of sparkling
black granite. I had hoped to see, majestic in its
sarcophagus, the changeless case of flesh which had held
the soul of a Pharaoh. But it was explained to me that,
for the convenience of western tourists, the mummies
had been moved to a museum.
Leaving the pyramids, we went then to see Pharaoh
in the place to which they had removed him. After
pointing out, in a showcase, a collection of the rarest
butterflies of Africa, the guide showed me, in another
glass box, a mummy. I read on a little card, " Rhamses
II, called Sesostris Pharaoh." O Europe, with what
grace you unveil the past of its mysteries !
Even thus coarsely ridiculed, Rhamses was beautiful
and majestic. A grave face, browned by the balsams,
an aquiline nose. At the corners of his imperious,
wilful lips, a smile of disdain. On his haughty forehead
a rebel lock of shining blue-black hair. One fine hand
lifted, the other laid upon his heart as though he wished
to hide it from profane eyes. . . .
O heart of Pharaoh ! Before the eyes that look on
you now, you need no concealment ; they cannot see
It was thus in Egypt that I first met Europe. It is
true that it was not great Europe, but an uncertain and
Levantine Europe, mixed with an Asia Europeanized
and burlesqued. Wounded and incredulous, I told
myself that I saw here neither the true Asia nor the true
Until then I had imagined Europe as all my people
imagine it. We knew it only by splendid photographs
where all the houses, tall and luxurious, seemed to us
palaces, where the pavement was of smooth marble, and
each lantern that lighted the streets was a moon. We
heard that in Europe all men were equal and free, and
it was only for the general order and happiness that now
and then they freely chose one of their number for a
ruler. There, in Europe, a perfect justice perfumed
Half-gods, the men of the western countries knew
everything, were able to do everything. They were
ignorant of the tumult of the senses thai
our dreamy gardens among the fountains. Proud, '.
rivalled even the stars. Mounted on little win
sylphs, like our Soleinun upon his magic carpet, they
soared among the stars, their brothers. Imperious and
warlike, they dreamed of conquering far-away planets,
their future homes. And we were persuaded that one
day we would see them go to the moon and come back
with as much ease as they came from their distant
countries into our dull and disenchanted corners of the
The wives of these half -gods were as mysterious to us
as the European fairies, of which our legends of the
Crusades keep such enchanting traces. Blonde and
slender, with eyes as pure as the sky, these women, these
flowers of the snowy countries, wore proudly the golden
helmet of their marvellous hair. Free as the wind, and
scornful as the Amazons of ancient Caucasus, they
treated with contempt their men, from among whom
they chose now and then, for an hour or two, the most
handsome for their queen-like care-free loves.
We did not doubt that this Europe of Titans and
heroes created Jeanne d'Arcs and Napoleons as often as
Ophelias and Marguerites. In comparison with their
world we felt that ours was a clod of earth. During our
great receptions the presence of the beautiful European
women with naked shoulders filled us with timidity.
Bold with our men, they were so mocking, so haughty
toward us, whom they treated as slaves. When we
spoke of Europeans our voices unconsciously became
grave and respectful, as when one addresses a parent,
and our humble praises of them were always mixed with
blame for all that is Asiatic. How profane appeared to
us the efforts of an Asiatic to imitate a European ! Was
it possible to imitate a god, or to equal the sun ?
It was in Egypt that I first came in contact with
Europe. But I was too dreamy ; the reality pierced
very slowly the veils of reverie which protected my soul.
Far from my Persia and my Caucasus, I was drawn more
closely to them by a profound nostalgia. And having
set aside my pride and my prejudices against the dancers,
I lost myself in the poetry of my dances. When with
half-closed eyes, to the sound of the stringed instru-
ments, I drew with my naked feet the arabesques of our
dances upon the Persian carpets, I would forget that I
was very far from the dear walls of our gardens. My
dancing was also a mute but eloquent language by
which I said to those who treated us with contempt that,
although humble in our inferiority to Europeans, we
nevertheless have a little grace and tenderness, and that
even in our dreaminess there is splendour. In my
illusion I thought that the watching demi-gods would
mingle with their disdain for us also a little understand-
ing and respect.
But the more I knew of these gods and their Europe,
the more I withdrew within myself, burying jealously
in my secret depths all that was sensitive and poetic.
Thus I was wounded less.
Around me, too, I saw for the first time " civilized "
Asia. Until then I had known only the Asia of the
great patriarchal traditions. The world of European-
ized Asiatics was entirely unknown to me. This world,
in contact with the vulgar Occident, unfortunately bor-
rowed from it only its depravities, and among others,
the revolting fashion of treating as animals the unhappy
women who have not the fortune to be protected by
father or husband. And in tins attitude, where the
European has a touch of the oaive and childlike even in
his brutality, the Asiatic becomes simply hideous. Tin
is because he comes from the midst of Orientals and
knows that respect for all women, even the most un-
happy, is the noblest sentiment of mankind. In the
true Orient, the most depraved man venerates instinc-
tively in every woman the image of her who gave him
birth. Therefore the Asiatic outrages his own soul in
imitating the European who treats certain women as
" fallen," and his brutality has the ruthlessness of the
fanatic convert who desecrates the altars of his forsaken
Thus in Cairo one evening I saw, with sick incredu-
lous eyes, one of our most sacred dances degraded into a
bestiality horrible and revolting. It was our poem of
the mystery and pain of motherhood, which all true
Asiatic men watch with reverence and humility, in the
far-away corners of Asia where the destructive breath
of the Occident has not yet penetrated. In this olden
Asia which has kept the dance in its primitive purity, it
represents maternity, the mysterious conception of life,
the suffering and the joy with which a new soul is
brought into the world. Could any man born of
woman contemplate this most holy subject, expressed
in an art so pure and so ritualistic as our eastern dance,
with less than profound reverence ? Had this been
told me, I could not have believed it. Such is our
Asiatic veneration of motherhood, that there are coun-
tries and tribes whose most binding oath is sworn upon
the stomach, because it is from this sacred cup that
humanity has issued.
But the spirit of the Occident had touched this holy
dance, and it became the horrible danse du ventre, the
hoochie-koochie. To me, a nauseating revelation of
unsuspected depths of human bestiality, to others it was
— amusing. I heard the lean Europeans chuckling, I
saw lascivious smiles upon even the lips of Asiatics, and
In my sad adventures in Egypt I was to meet often
this type of civilized Asiatic, which the West calls
" picturesque," and the more I clashed with it, the
more I opened my sleeping eyes.
my beautiful ignorance, which had made me love
humanity as the most splendid flower in the beautiful
garden of the Creator !
1 was presented to X . . . Pasha, then newly ap-
pointed King of Albania. He was organizing a splendid
fete for the anniversary of the Khedive's coronation.
The Halim Palace, one of the most beautiful in Egypt,
was opened for the festivities. A number of halls,
draped in the different styles of the Orient, were set
aside for me and the musicians who were to accompany
The Khediva was a Turkish princess. As a Mussul-
man, she could not mix with the European guests, and
an entertainment was offered her separately, in the
I entered, draped in several transparent veils. At the
end of the long salon, draped in purple, blue, and r<
and lighted by latticed and curtained windows I saw
the Khediva. A suite of pretty Khanoums-Em ,
Turkish and Arabian, dressed in white n.bes embroid-
ered with gold, surrounded her divan. Of the Khediva,
one saw only the sparkle of eyes beneath her vuh.
In the respectful Asiatic manner, my musicians had
turned their backs upon the Khediva, which obliged me
to follow witli my dance the breezes « >f kheii ini piration,
a task indeed awkward for an A liatic dancer wn<
tures are always followed by the music and not con-
trolled by it.
After the dance, the Khediva called me to her and
embraced me affectionately.
" They tell me that you come from very far," she
" I come from Iran," I replied, installing myself upon
the cushions to which she invited me with a gesture.
" But you are Circassian ? "
" So be it if my Sultana wishes it. I am so called in
the Turkish harems."
" Ah, you are then an Armenian ? "
" It is as my Sultana has said."
" But why does one speak of the Armenians as Circas-
sians in the Turkish harems ? "
" Because, O my Sultana, the Circassians are Mussul-
mans. To love a Circassian is not a sin against
Mohammed. But to love an Armenian is to love a
Christian, a Giaour. Therefore in the harems the
Armenians are called Circassians."
The Khediva smiled, and held out to me a little
" It is for you to treasure as a remembrance of our
Khediva," one of the Khanoum-Emires explained to me.
Shocked at the small splendour of this gift of copper,
I tried to console myself by thinking that it had perhaps
come to her from the treasures of some Pharaoh Cheops
or Sesostris. In any case, I soon lost it.
The same evening all European Egypt crowded itself
into the Halim Palace. After my dances I was pre-
sented to the European wife of the Khedive, formerly a
cook in his palace. However, it was considered an
honour to be presented to this European Khediva.
Sanctified by the crown, her pots and pans were for-
Blonde and soft, like a pinkish paste, she was stretched
out on a long chair, throwing flowers to her guests and
calling everyone " thee " and " thou." Her vigorous
laughter undulated her plump stomach ; the fragments
of her laugh scattered through all the halls and caused
even the immobile negroes at the thresholds to smile.
Bewildered, I asked myself why, in their marriages
with Europeans, our great rulers always prefer the cooks
to the ladies. Is it because the servants, more naive
and spontaneous than their mistresses, arc more nearly
like the Asiatic women than are the great dames of
Europe, filled with cold artifices of the heart and the
I was obliged to admit to myself that at the very
sight of his monocle my heart became a cold wall against
which the most passionate entreaties of an English
gentleman broke in vain. Can this owl love ? I asked
myself in amazement.
What illegible hieroglyphics were the Englishmen
and Americans in my hotel ! Wrinkled like our eunuchs,
with eyes as cold as those of fishes, they stretched out
in their chairs, pipes in mouths. Their large feet were
raised nonchalantly near the noses of their wives. Thin
and corseted to the chin, these wives held themselv< ;
correctly erect on their hard chairs. I became dizzy in
trying to imagine how these people expressed to each
other their loves.
Do the long stiff arms of these nun know how to
embrace? Do their teeth sometimes unloosen i"
abandon their pipes, and do ardent w le from
those severe mouths ? Do those gloom) ey< everlight
with the fires of joy, love, or anger ? And their wives,
those ladies so stiff, so grave, and so shamelessly naked
in their evening gowns, do they ever feel a longing for
natural grace and suppleness ?
I had been escorted to the fete of the Khedive by an
Armenian Khan of Constantinople, then a diplomat at
Cairo. He was an old man, very grave beneath his red
fez. Small but sturdy, with a long grey beard, this
venerable man inspired in me a sentiment of extreme
and timid modesty. Therefore, after having danced
with naked feet for the Khediva, I had put on my
stockings and hidden my throat to dance for the
" My daughter," said the Khan, " show everyone
by your dances that the virtue of Armenian women is
I danced, therefore, not only with my eyes closed and
my mouth compressed, but even without breathing,
fearing that to breathe would give my body a suggestion
The Khan was delighted.
" Continue to live proudly, my child," he said to me.
" Refuse all the dinners and suppers that will be offered
you, and return at once to your rooms."
We lived in the same hotel, and it was to this admir-
able protector that I had been recommended by my
friends in Constantinople. He was watching over me
like a father, and I was deeply touched by his care.
Dinners and suppers ? No dragon could have fright-
ened me more than those words.
Having bowed before the European wife of the
Khedive, then, I directed my steps toward the doors.
Between two rows of guests we advanced like a nuptial
procession. The Khan led it. Majestic as a ship, he
walked before me with a slow and even step ; I followed
him humbly, my head bowed beneath the curious eyes
of the assembly. Three Albanians followed carry-
ing my flowers, and behind them a little negro bore on a
tray my tambourine and cymbals.
The Khan was disappearing into the shadows of the
gardens when a hand stopped me beneath the arcades.
It was the Pasha. His eyes lifted toward the ceiling, he
sighed rapturously. He spoke to me of my snowy
mountains, of the black diamonds of my eyes. Alas,
was that all that he remembered of my dance-poems ?
I blushed, I paled, my heart beat. In my confusion I
forgot for an instant the venerable Khan who waited
outside with my negro and my carriage.
Then I hurried blindly onward, half detained by the
Pasha's hand on my arm and his voice that poured a
Hood of compliments into my cars. We reached the
gates, the Pasha trembling, I astounded at his audacity.
A servant said to us, " His Excellency has departed,
very much enraged."
" So much the better," said the Pasha, and turning
to me he said, " My house is vast, and it is yours.
Allah be praised if he leads us to Paradise there."
" Allah would not be so cruel, Pasha. After entering
your house I could hide my shame only in the abysses of
hell. I am Christian, Pasha. Allow me t'
" There is neither Mahomet nor Christ, my beautiful
dove. There is only one true religion, and that u bye."
" Your words are useless, Pasha. 1 beg JTOtt, I
carriage. I am a Christian."
I finally reached my hotel, trembling. 1 had hardly
taken off my cloak when a servant came, inviting me to
drink a cup of tea with the Khan. It was midnight, but
I could only obey my venerable protector. I hastened
to his suite. Buried in an arm-chair, silent and motion-
less, the noble Khan had the air of a god of vengeance.
" Khan," I said timidly, " I made you wait. I have
no excuse to offer, but pardon me in the name of Christ,
I beg you."
" Pardon you ? "he said after a long silence. " You
know not even the respect due to my grey beard. I
waited at the doors like a eunuch while you lent your
ears to the impious flatteries of a Mussulman, of a
Turk." There were tears in his voice.
" O Khan ! " I wept. " May the earth open beneath
my feet and may hell swallow me. How could I treat
you as a eunuch, I who am so obedient to you, so
humble ? " And I respectfully kissed his hand. Two
tears fell from my eyes upon it.
" Well," he sighed, " may God pardon you if pardon
I could not speak for sobs, and again kissed his hand.
" We are in Egypt, my daughter," he said. " Egypt
is Europe. And in Europe all customs are different
from ours, and it is the men who kiss the hands of the
" I respect my elders too much to allow myself to
follow such a custom," I said, intending to flatter him.
" I am not so old as you think, my daughter," he
replied, irritated. " I am only sixty years old, and in
Europe that is like thirty years with us."
I did not know.
He kissed my hand. I was confused. This custom
seemed to me very humiliating for an old man. He
rose and began to walk back and forth. I installed
myself comfortably upon a divan. He was about to
lecture me again on morals. These lectures consisted
in teaching me that evil spirits dress in seductive robes
all the vices of the world, of which the chief is art.
" Your feet are set upon a downward path, my
daughter," he sighed. " You will soon be changed
from an honest woman to an artist. Your fall is inevit-
able. You are young, you are alone, you dance. . . .
One sees your face, your naked feet. . . . Corruption
awaits you. I see it."
Troubled and unhappy, I asked him what was this
corruption. It was, he said, the love of the rich, pearls,
diamonds, magnificent apartments.
" Never, never, dear Khan ! I swear to you by
heaven and all the angels, never will I love a rich man.
Besides, by nature I rather incline toward the poor
" O unfortunate child, that is more terrible still,"
he answered. " The poor will not love you any better
than the rich. Tired of your love, they will one day
leave you quite alone, leave you to die beneath the walls
of some public garden in the cruel cities of Europe.
I see clearly your future, O my daughter ! — the damp
cellars, the cold garrets, hunger, filth, rags . . .
unhappy girl ! "
Desolate and terrified, I began to wei p,
" Be comforted," he said. " In Egypt you arc not
alone, no one will harm you. I watch over you, because
I love you, as you know."
" I also, I venerate you with all my soul, dear Khan.
You will not abandon me i<> hunger and rags, will you ?"
" Never, my pigeon. Never, my dove."
But the words he had spoken continued to blow
through my spirit like the bleak wind of the desert.
Alone outside the walls of all the world's gardens, how
could I escape the miseries he had prophetically fore-
seen ? I continued to weep, and from the depths of
my soul I cried to him, " Oh, tell me, how can I die ?
O my father, I want to die before my fall ! "
" Poor child," he said, holding my head against his
breast. " Listen to me. I know that you esteem me
and that you follow all my counsels. Listen to me,
then. I offer you my love and protection, will you
accept them ? You shall have all of my life that
remains, and when I die I will leave you all my fortune.
You will be married then (I suppose) to an honest man,
and you will grow old an honest woman. Will you, my
little dove ? "
This conclusion to his paternal lectures was to me an
earthquake. What ? This Armenian patriarch ?
Was this, then, a noble father of my race, this monster
transformed by Europe ? O Eternal Father !
Covering my face with my hands I left him without
a word. Reaching my room, I threw myself on a divan
and wept until dawn.
" Celestial Father, Divine Protector ! I do not
wish to voyage any more. I do not want to see the
glorious cities of Europe, nor the Indies, nor Japan ! I
fear the old men, all the elders of the world. O God !
O Heaven ! O Christ ! Why is Thy curse laid on me ?
Why hast thou led me forth from my country, from
Thine own Eden ? "
At dawn I fell asleep, all exhausted with sobs. I was
awakened by a servant who brought a little package.
It was a beautiful ring, which the Khan had sent me.
His card said that he had gone to Alexandria in order
not to be a witness of my inevitable ruin.
So I remained all alone in Cairo. I had no one for a
That evening I received the visit of a Bey, also an
Armenian and a Turkish diplomat. He was a giant, tall
and blond. He had been presented to me at the fete
in the Halim Palace as the best friend of the Pasha. He
invited me to dinner with a party of friends at his house
the following evening. " The Pasha has invited us to
bring you later to supper at the palace," he said.
Honoured by this double invitation, and eager to forget
my unhappiness in conversation with the noble society
of Egypt, I consented.
The following day, then, I made myself beautiful.
My face, pale and saddened by the Khan's sacrilege,
regained a little of its serenity. My white veils bor-
dered with silver gave me a candid air, and I felt that
thus I would inspire the respect of the personages I was
The Bey was announced ; he awaited me in his
carriage. I entered it, and we drove away. We cro
all Cairo, we left the city behind us, and went straight
forward into the desert.
" Your house is indeed far, my Bey," I said to
"Yes, I live in the remote suburbs of Cairo."'
The carriage stopped at tall gates. In the darkness
I saw only a few palm trees. Beyond the palms the
contours of a great palace could hardly be distinguished.
No light in the windows.
"Your house has the appearance of a moi . I
d.s. 255 I
said, laughing. " Are you leading me here to assassin-
ate me ? "
Two footmen assisted us to dismount from the
" Why are the windows not lighted ? " the Bey
roared at them in a furious voice.
" But His Excellency himself commanded that "
His Excellency drowned their words in a violent flood
of mixed Arabic and Turkish.
" This Bey is indeed not a very gentle character," I
" Enter," he commanded me. I obeyed immediately.
We came from the darkness into a sumptuous hall.
Above, high walls ornamented with ancient armour ;
below, a stairway draped with damask, leading down-
" Descend," the Bey said, with an imperious gesture
toward these steps.
I hesitated. Without knowing why, I felt my heart
beating painfully. " But, O Bey, do you not prefer to
dine upstairs ? Underground rooms make me sad."
" My friends are waiting for us below," he said
in Armenian. " Do not make me ridiculous before my
The sound of my own tongue made me docile.
The traditional submission to the man, master of the
household, completely submerged my will. Such is
the power of custom.
I descended and found myself in a little Turkish
room without doors or windows, completely draped
with red stuffs of Damascus. Along the walls a number
of divans. On little tables encrusted with mother-of-
pearl, a cold dinner set out.
" But where are your friends ? "
" Do you think I am so stupid as to spoil the pleasure
of having you alone in my house ? " he said laughing,
taking off his cloak.
" Christ and all the Prophets ! "
Useless to remember all the burlesque scenes that
the Bey made me witness. He lost all self-control.
His blue eyes became black. He was in turn purple
and pale, in turn amiable, brutal, sentimental, furious.
Sometimes I was his little dove, his flower, his angel of
Paradise; again, howling with rage, he called me probably
wounding names, of whose meaning I was ignorant.
" I understand," he said. " You must be paid in
He drew from his fingers two enormous rings of dia-
monds and placed them before me. I leaned against
the wall, weeping bitterly.
" All the Satans of Hell ! What is it you want,
then ? " And he hurled against the walls all the cups
and bottles, even the tables themselves. Then he
turned to me. Without having tasted the wines, he
appeared intoxicated. I froze before this giant whose
face was contracted with anger and desire. Thus for
the first time I found myself confronting the degrading
brutality which the West has taught the East to call
" When a woman wounds such sincere love, one takes
her by force," he said in a smothered voice.
" Very well, O Bey," I replied in a calm and deci
tone. "I am helpless. But know that • < >w
morning I shall be found dead on my divan, and that all
Cairo and the East shall know why."
I really wished to kill myself. When one is y
one plays so easily with life. My threat to the Bey was
sincere. The disgust he had inspired in me spread to
cover the whole world, and my indignation was pro-
Many expressions passed over the Bey's face, while
I stood before him proud and indifferent in my cold
hatred. At last he groaned, clenched his teeth, and
controlled himself. A few minutes went by in silence.
With a broken gesture he picked up his little cap and
gave me a weary look. He had the air of a sick
At the submissive aspect of this giant, a sort of com-
passion came over me. What a bizarre thing is the
human heart ! Not only did I pardon him in an instant
all the suffering he had made me undergo during two
hours, but I felt a desire to comfort and protect
" My poor Bey," I said, putting my hands on his
Surprised by the tenderness of my voice, he looked at
me in astonishment. Something gentle and yielding
replaced for an instant the hardness in his eyes. For
that second his eyes were those of a man of the East,
who knows and reveres the divinity of love.
Happily, at that instant some one opened the door.
I collected myself, drew my veils around me, and left.
" Admit," he said, helping me from the carriage at
my hotel, " that a less scrupulous man than I would
simply have drugged your wine. But you were with a
I was astounded.
Just at midnight I entered the palace of the Pasha.
In a great hall lighted by innumerable lanterns a society-
composed of all races and all religions, perfumed,
glittering with pearls and diamonds, greeted me with
shouts of laughter and applause.
Far from being flattered by such a warm greeting, I
disliked it, and halted on the threshold, unwilling to
advance. The Pasha ran to me, grasping my hand, and
thanked me for enabling him to win a large bet.
I understood nothing, but the mystery was soon
explained. I learned that I had been the subject of a
wager between the Bey and the Pasha. The Bey had
arrived an hour earlier, claiming that he had won, and
upholding his claim with a wealth of detail, but his
aspect had so contradicted his words that the company
had laughed at him, and he had left in angry confusion.
My heart overflowing with indignation, I made every
effort to restrain my tears.
A Russian approached me to shelter me from the
jokes that were wounding my ears, then not accustomed
to the crudities of European language, where one uses
unconcernedly words that one docs not hear in my
" Do not be so unhappy," this Russian begged me.
The Russians, who arc half Asiatic, always understand
me. " These arc really innocent ban mots. You must
accustom yourself to this European gallantry I t Egypt.
Here even the Asiatics respect only tho ( ' 'ital
women who have never leaped the walls of their
He continued : " The Levantine society in Egypt is
composed mostly of adventurers of all kind-." And he
presented to me successively all the quests of th 1"
accompanying each name with the DK
remarks. There were nothing but " counts " and
" barons." He presented me to three blonde prin-
cesses, Abdullah, Ibrahim, and Ismail, telling me that
they were all singers in the European cabarets of
Morocco and Algiers before their rise to thrones.
Among all the people who surrounded and frightened
me in Egypt, there was one whom I sincerely esteemed
and whose memory remains dear to me. He was an
Italian, a Neapolitan count. He lived in a pretty little
villa drowned beneath a sea of palm-fronds, and occu-
pied himself with journalism. A widower, father of a
child, he was good, wise, and charming. His goodness,
which covered all the world, spread itself over me. He
was troubled for my future.
" But what are your prospects ? " he asked me con-
This was an embarrassing question ; my prospects
were vague even to myself. On days when the sun was
hidden and when my spirit ached with an indefinite
sadness, I replied, " I shall go straight from here to
Jerusalem to shut myself for ever in a convent ; I have a
letter to our Patriarch of Jerusalem."
On days when the glowing sun kindled in me a desire
for lands still warmer than Egypt I told him, " I shall
go to the Indies ; I have letters to the Maharajahs
of Haiderabad and of Mador."
" But what will you do there, all alone ? " he asked me
" I shall dance in their palaces, and I shall visit one
by one all the princes of the Himalayas. Some day
perhaps I shall marry one of those Rajahs. I shall have a
house of marble upon a lake covered with water-lilies.
I shall have little elephants which I shall raise to hunt
the lions and the tigers."
" And if none of these Rajahs wish to marry
you ? "
" So much the worse for them. I will enter the caste
of the bayaderes, and dance in the temples and in the
" But when you grow old ? "
" I shall gain my bread as a beggar on the street
" Kind Lord ! " cried the good Neapolitan.
But I was sincere. Though so newly come from the
chrysalis, I felt my wings beginning to expand. I can-
not say that my poor freedom intoxicated me, but the
dream of Freedom still had that power. And the
bazaars of Asia would please me as much as our palaces.
When I grew old, begging my bread under the beautiful
sun did not appear to me at all as a dishonourable end
for a once-brilliant bayadere.
To save me from such adventures, this charming
gentleman offered me his name, his home and all that
he possessed ; a heart full of tenderness and a peaceful
life in his chateau on the outskirts of Naples.
" An old chateau ! . . . The Adriatic! . . . Seren-
ades ! ..." I dreamed. Perhaps it would be
beautiful as the palaces of the Rajahs on the bank
the Ganges. This charming man would lie my faithful
husband, and his child, without my having to uiul
the pain of child-birth, would call me mother. I 9
touched to tears, and this future seemed to I
beautiful as a legend.
" Yes, yes, I must marry him," I de< ided, and n< I
ling beside him, " Tell me," I said, l> when I am your
wife, we shall go just the same to China and Japan, is
it not so ? There I shall dance for all the great
Mandarins, all the Haus, all the Maos, and you, you
will defend me against all the diplomats of those
" Oh no, my beautiful ! " he protested, shocked,
" I am not at all the man for such a role. The love
of an Italian is absolute ; it surrenders all, it demands
all. I shall be for you all your joys, all your art, all your
life ! " And he embraced me passionately. My
thoughts immediately took another turn.
" To bury myself with this man, under the roof of an
old house in the country. Husband ! . . . Slippers !
. . . Spectacles ! . . . Journals ! . . . O horror ! "
And my handsome Rajahs with haughty profiles,
those bronze-coloured, proud Rajahs, so humble at the
feet of the bayadere ! And my palanquins, my little
elephants, my tigers, my lions ! My palace of marble
on the water-lily lake !
" No, no," I said, disengaging myself firmly from
the arms of the good Neapolitan. " I like better to
continue my vagabond life." And I said farewell to the
charming count, farewell to Naples and the old chateau
in which I would have been the imprisoned chatelaine.
So ended this dream. But it was beautiful.
Returning to my hotel, I determined to go at once to
the Indies. I had given my last dance at Alexandria,
nothing held me in Egypt, and I was weary of it. I
was looking at my costumes and jewels, choosing those
I would take with me, when two Englishmen were
announced. They invited me to dance for one year in
England and in America.
To dance for one whole year, and every day ! Such
a pleasure appeared to me incredible and impossible.
Moreover, I could not imagine their motive in suggest-
" No," I told them. " However, I shall perhaps
go some day to dance before your kings and princes."
" America has no kings," one of the Englishmen
explained to me. " As for us, we have only one king
and very few princes. I know only one, the Prince of
" But that makes only two evenings in all. Deci-
dedly that is too little for which to undertake so long a
" Ah, but you will have two hundred large music-
halls, and we will give you fifty thousand francs for the
The splendour of the music-halls was unknown to
me. The fifty thousand francs did not at all impress
me either. I was completely ignorant of the value of
all the money of the world.
" What, then, are music-halls ? "
The Englishmen described them to me. A B1
and lights, and many people ; applause, rlo\vcr>. Si ill,
these appeared to me pale in comparison with the
My friends arrived just as I was finally and emphatic-
ally refusing this offer.
" Are you crazy ?" they cried. ''Think! London,
Paris, New York! Fame, fortune, fifty thousand
francs ! "
I replied sadly, " But the Indies with all my Raj
And Jerusalem, and my Patrian h ! "
" It is madness to renounce such an opportunity,
my friends insisted. " Forget these vague and
uncertain adventures. Go to London ; go to shine in
the civilized countries."
With a sorrowful heart I finally signed a large paper
written in English, of which I did not understand one
word. My friends assured me that everything was
written there in the most honest manner. The two
Englishmen placed their names beside mine, and con-
fided to me this large paper. And that evening, during
a supper which my friends gave to celebrate this stroke
of fortune, I learned that I was now a star, an artist of
the music-halls. This was incomprehensible to me.
To be a star ! How beautiful ! But my very soul
shuddered at that word " artist."
At the end of the banquet, toward dawn, I went
back to my rooms very much oppressed, ill. I felt
vaguely that I had sold to those two Englishmen that
which was dearest to me beneath the sun, my liberty.
I looked at the enigmatic words to which I had signed
my name. The hateful paper burned my hands.
Tear it up ! But, no. I had been warned that if any
harm came to that paper I would be put in prison,
because such papers are sacred in the civilized countries.
Without undressing, I lay down, but sleep fled from
Occident ! England ! America ! Celestial Father,
what should I do all alone in that world ? How would
I live in a country where the sun, I had been told,
resembled a disk of ice, and the stars are hidden, and
the sky weeps without ceasing, where the moon herself
wears always veils of fog ?
And for this miserable fate, I had for ever ceased to
be Khanoum, I had become an artist !
The word made me shudder. Under that name, in
the Orient, one spoke of the unfortunate women
brought from the Occident by slave-merchants. No
one remembered ever to have seen a performance given
by these artists, because on the very day of their arrival
they were bought for a sum of gold and disappeared
into private harems.
" O Heaven ! " I prayed, lifting my wet eyes toward
the ceiling, " do not let me become one of those
unhappy little ones ! Shame to me, and shame to
Thee, O Divine Father, if Thou allowest one who clings
to the hem of Thy garments to fall so low ! Do I not
love everywhere, good or bad, the work of Thy hands ?
Can Thy Heavenly Wisdom condemn me to fall into
the Dark Abyss ? No, no, for that would be Thy fault,
not mine. I am only a feeble candle in Thy hands, a
grain of dust beneath Thy feet ! "
In the morning, after a cold bath, I was able to calm
myself a little.
" Courage," I thought. " The four walls of a gar-
den are no longer around me, the patriarchs no longer
watch over me. Then deeds, not lamentations ! I )
tiny guides me toward new horizons. I must submit.
Farewell to my dreams, farewell to my sun ! I am
now become an artist."
From that moment I became independent, that is to
say, thrown to the mercy of events.
Independence ! Proud word, created to reduce the
proudest to slavery.
I left Egypt. The warm wind of the Sahara
gilding with yellow dust the low shores of the Mediter-
p? I left Asia. It seemed to me that I was leaving a
planet dear to me, going to another planet unknown.
Far away, cold and arid, this new world terrified me.
I felt confusedly that there I would be as alien as an
animal of the days before the Flood, left stranded among
the new inhabitants of the world.
iv My heart, my poor frozen heart, broke into a thou-
sand pieces. Crushed by an impalpable burden, I
touched my shoulders to be sure that the sky was not
resting upon them its heavy arches.
The bridge which joined the ship with the land of
Egypt was lifting. It seemed to me that all the cords
which united me to the Orient were being cut.
Asia, O my sun ! I leave you, perhaps for ever.
Will I be able to live without you ? To what does
this huge ship, this sea-monster, carry me away ?
And the Europeans, enclosed with me upon this ship,
how ugly they are ! These blonde people with un-
natural, colourless skins, who smile at me, how I detest
them ! One of them wishes to speak to me, O Heaven !
1 fled into my cabin and began to weep, my face
sunk into the cushions of my bed. As in the agony of
the drowning, all the countries, all the houses that I
had known, all the living and dead faces, all that was
dear and terrible to me, rushed before my eyes from I
know not where. Laughing and weeping, I wiped
them away with my burning hands, but they returned.
Among the others, a face with an aureole of luminous
rays rested upon me two sorrowful eyes. It leaned
toward me, and I felt a kiss on my forehead. My
mother, my adorable mother ! At this very hour,
without doubt, she was praying for me, far, far away
among the mountains of my Caucasus.
Mother, where am I going ? Oh come with me ; I
am afraid ! Eternal Saviour, God of Kindness, God
of Mercy, what horrors dost Thou reserve for me in
the unknown lands of the Occident ? I am alone.
O Great God, watch over me, protect me !